Phenomenal powers of observation and statistical correlation are used by paleontologists who recreate the entire skeleton of a huge dinosaur from fossil footprints and bone fragments only a few inches long. A competent forensic pathologist can determine, with good accuracy, the height, weight, sex, age, race, and build of a victim by examining the remains of a single leg bone. An experienced clinician can make a diagnosis on the basis of only a few critical observations. In each case, someone who has experience correlating seemingly insignificant pieces of a much larger picture can often easily recreate a full entity from very limited samples. Like working with jigsaw puzzles, the ability to visualize the whole from parts may involve the scientific method to some degree, but it always requires a modicum of instinct and personal rules of thumb or heuristics.
Similarly, customers usually come away with a perception of an entire company after briefly encountering only one or two touch points. Consider ''Joe's Used Auto Parts," a traditional brick-and-mortar business. Without knowing anything about the business other than its name, a customer could probably make a very good guess about the decor, the number of oil-stained rags on the desk, the type of calendar on the wall, the education level of the manager, and something about the level of service that he should expect. Now, to add to the customer's knowledge base, suppose he drives to Joe's and gets out of his car. Suppose Joe walks up, greets the customer with a toothless smile and a two day beard, shakes his hand with his greasy paw, and tells the customer to park his car behind the building, next to the dumpster. As the customer wipes the grease from his hands so that he doesn't ruin the oyster-white leather seats of his BMW sportster, what are the odds that he'll leave his car in Joe's hands? Joe may be the best auto mechanic on the planet, but all the customer has to go on in his evaluation of Joe's business are his interpersonal skills and appearance.
When a customer walks into a restaurant, hotel, or retail outlet, the background music, the colors of the carpet and the furnishings, and the dress and demeanor of the staff prime him for an experience. These props set the mood and his expectations for everything from cost to the level and quality of service. He probably also has expectations of how things should fit together in any business that he's considering working with. The customer probably doesn't expect disco music in a fine French restaurant, nor does he expect Italian opera in a take-out Chinese restaurant.
Incongruencies in what a customer expects and what he actually experiences are disturbing. It isn't that opera or disco are innately bad, or in bad taste, but it's how they're used in combination with other props that matters.
A customer walking into a leading London SEO agency doesn't expect fluorescent greens and blues, but khakis and black leather.
Customers want whatever a business offers to fit their ideal of what the business is about. On a firstclass flight, a customer expects the steward to take her jacket before takeoff, stow it on a hanger, and return it to her, unwrinkled, just before landing. The brands Gap, Coke, and Mercedes Benz make customers think about a certain level of quality, cost, and service, based on brand identity.