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How a Tomato on a Sandwich Damages Trust


I don’t like tomatoes on my sandwich. I’m not allergic, I just don’t care for them. In case you are wondering, I happen to like tomatoes in other things; just not sandwiches. Today I went to the café located in our office building and ordered a sandwich without tomatoes. The woman who took my order smiled, repeated back my order (complete with no tomato request), and started making my sandwich.

She took out the bread, added the sundried tomato spread and then slid the bread down to another worker who put the toppings on. That person added all the toppings of the sandwich including the dreaded tomato! I yelled out, “No tomato! No tomato!” (like a crazy person). The offending tomato was removed from the sandwich and I stepped down from my attack position.

I paid for the sandwich, brought it back to my office, opened it up and the tomato was there! Looks like someone else got their sandwich without a tomato. Sigh.

Now for a related story.

I have a great relationship with my mortgage broker. I trust him. He looks out for me.

Last month I filled out a mortgage calculator on the bank’s website to see if it would be a good time to refinance. (It is.) It asked for my current loan number, some verification details, and my contact info.

I talked on the phone with my mortgage broker and started the necessary paperwork. I received a confirmation from an automated online system via email that my loan was in process.

The very next day I got an email from the bank saying it was a great time to refinance and I should contact my mortgage broker. It was pre-populated with my loan number, and the contact info of my broker. I thought to myself, “Huh, good timing,” knowing full well that these types of email campaigns were already in motion when I started my loan process and it was therefore unreasonable for me to expect my name would be removed from the triggered acquisition list. I quickly deleted it feeling confident it had no bearing on my existing application.

But then I got another email giving me a similar “Time to refinance” message with different creative. And at this point I was filled with the same type of feeling I had seeing a tomato slice being added to my sandwich.

This tomato and refinance incident highlights a common problem: when multiple stakeholders don’t communicate, the one left angry is the customer.

It isn’t the fault of any one person, more the system. We see it all the time: we work with one client contact in PPC only to be handed over to another client contact in acquisition. And then when marketing to existing customers, we work with the person responsible for retention. And that is just how it’s structured within a client’s marketing department. Imagine the amount of ways to fail as the customer data is being pushed from business units to business units. Some companies even have multiple databases!

But as a customer (or potential customer) I don’t care. 

The presence of a tomato on my sandwich or a repeat refinance message damages trust. If the café can’t remember to pass the no tomato info from one person to the next, how can I trust they remember to rotate their produce stock? Or wipe down the raw chicken station? If the bank can’t purge my name from the email list after seeing I am currently in a loan process, how can I trust they will remember to order an appraisal? Or pay my taxes from my escrow account? Van Halen didn’t ask for the removal of brown M&M’s in their rider to be particular. They asked for them to make sure those handling the gig were particular.

The more companies silo by business units, the more chance of angering your customer with disjointed or confusing messaging. The danger is especially true as technology has enabled us to communicate with customers in multiple touches across multiple devices in real-time. This means that if a triggered email is fired off from a signup, you better be ready to pull a scheduled email about signing up quickly.

What steps would you take to solve these issues?

Photo credit: Debs (ò?ó)?