Morton’s Story Is Not About Great Customer Service

Over the past few days, I’ve been bombarded by emails telling me about “The Greatest Customer Service Story Ever Told.” It’s a blog post about how Morton’s Steakhouse delivered a steak dinner to a traveler at an airport after he tweeted the following…

Hey @Mortons – can you meet me at newark airport with a porterhouse when I land in two hours? K, thanks 🙂

My take: This is a great story and is getting Morton’s a lot of exposure. It’s wonderful that Morton’s delivered the unexpected steak dinner, but it’s not great customer service. As a matter of fact, it’s not even good customer service.

Here’s how I would dissect the story:

  • Some person joked on twitter about wanting a steak (the tweeter admits he was joking)
  • Morton’s sent an employee 24 miles to deliver a steak dinner to the Newark airport

So Morton’s spent valuable resources (the food, deliver person for at least a few hours, etc.) to respond to someone who was joking.

I often tell companies that “heros don’t scale.” Great customer experience (and customer service) is demonstrated by repeatable processes, not by periodic heroic behavior.

Are more people going to tweet Mortons about delivering a meal? Yes. Is Morton’s planning to respond to all tweets with a personally delivered meal? Probably not. Are there going to be many people disappointed that they’ve been left hungry? Probably.

Having said all of that, I like what Morton’s did. It was great marketing.

The bottom line: Don’t bet your customer service on heroics

P.S. Morton’s: I love porterhouse and prefer it medium rare. I’ll be in Stockbridge, MA tomorrow 🙂

About Bruce Temkin, CCXP
I'm an experience (XM) management catalyst; helping organizations improve results by engaging the hearts and minds of their employees, customers, and partners. I enjoy researching and speaking about these topics. I lead the Qualtrics XM Institute, which is the world's best job. We're igniting a global community of XM Professionals who are inspired and empowered to radically improve the human experience. To achieve this goal, my team focuses on thought leadership, training, and community building. My work is driven by a set of fundamental beliefs: 1) Everything starts and ends with human beings, so you need to understand how people think, feel, and behave; 2) XM is a discipline that needs to be woven throughout an organization's entire operating fabric; and 3) Building the XM discipline requires a combination of culture, competency, and technology.

13 Responses to Morton’s Story Is Not About Great Customer Service

  1. David King says:

    I just finished reading Gary Vaynerchuk’s The Thank You Economy book – he gave a very similar example, but had a different intent. His was that he apparently did a personal wine matching for a family at dinner, at their house. He spent money on that – probably $200 or more (if I remember correctly).

    Was it worth it to Gary? He said yes – because now, he has that customer for the rest of their life. So in the end, he made money off it.

    So – how about the dude who received a steak? When he’s buying salt next … will he buy Morton’s? There’s a good chance he will. Will Morton’s make the “steak money” back? Probably so, over the life of the customer.

    I see it sort of like a traffic cop – they certainly don’t catch everyone. But see them pull off a few cars on one stretch of road, and you will most likely drive slower on that part of the road. Same with these examples of amazing customer service. Yes, only one person received a steak. But how many will now think differently of Morton’s because of it? I’m guessing a TON.

    Goal accomplished.

  2. It was definitely great marketing, but in reality, how many followers does the guy have that received the steak? Does Morton’s want us to believe that anyone who tweets that he/she wants a free steak will receive it?

    There are a few too many unanswered questions for me to believe this is much more than a marketing stunt. Miriam

    • Miriam – Peter Shankman has 108K followers on Twitter. He also happens to be a regular customer of Morton’s.

      Bruce – I also believe you need to build little extras into your processes for all customers, not just create ‘hero’ moments. However that doesn’t mean everyone gets treated equally. If Peter was a top customer, why not go above and beyond by giving an unexpected extra. I look at these type of ‘WOW’ moments as a beacon of sorts. A light that burns brightly for others to see. It shows that Morton’s cares about their customers.


      ‘The longest and hardest nine inches in marketing is the distance between the brain and the heart of your customer’

  3. No, it was a good PR stunt & had nothing to do with marketing since it was too far removed from the actual experience Morton delivers inside their four walls. PR stunts don’t garner you loyalty.

  4. Interesting. I’m a customer of Morton’s. Frequent customer, in fact. I spend a lot of money there. That they went out of their way to service me (a customer) somewhere other than their restaurant, to me, says that they’re quite good at customer service.

    Not sure where the disconnect is.

  5. Bruce –

    Thanks for the article. Although I agree that the way Morton’s treated Peter Shankman was a brilliant marketing stunt, I’m not sure I’m ready (yet) to say that it wasn’t great customer service (though I’m skeptical.)

    I think Morton’s would be delivering great customer service to all of its customers if Morton’s did the following with relatively high frequency and accuracy:

    1) giving “something” to every customer who contacts them (though not necessarily of equal value);
    2) deliver unexpected value – this could be the Wow they delivered to Peter, or perhaps something more mundane like table upgrades for previous customers – to the average Morton’s customer;
    and 3) treat all customers well for a lifetime. This might take a little longer to play out, and we’ll have a better barometer on how they do (but they could take a page from L.L. Bean, Zingerman’s, W Hotels and other brands that play to a medium-high-end customer.

    Would love it too if you would weigh in here if you have additional thoughts –



  6. George Eason says:

    Put yourself in the restaurants shoes:

    They see this tweet or whatever it was; they are probably quiet so the manager recognises that the guy who posted the request was a loyal customer; he then sends a staff member to the airport as a surprise.

    So was it a marketing stunt? Or a PR stunt? I don’t think so, probably more lets play a funny surprise on one of our good customers…. maybe it will give he/she something to talk about to friends and family.

    Marketing and PR tend to be a little more thought through.

    You can probably assume that the customer service at Mortons is at the very least ok, due to the fact that a) they check there feedback page regularly and b) they respond to customers.

  7. I have a bit of a unique outlook on this. I’m a social media strategist AND I’m a former waiter at a Morton’s in Northern Virginia, having worked there from October 2009 to October 2010. I actually put together a nine page proposal and sent it to Roger Drake, the VP of Marketing Communications. It entailed creating a regional social media for the DC area.

    I can still recite the verbal menu presentation.

    Look, this was a great idea that was perfectly executed. It shows me that the team in Chicago was on the ball and knew who Peter Shankman is.

    But it’s a stunt – a damn good one at that. Stunts are fine…it’s what follows that matters. On Twitter, on Shankman’s blog, etc. I see a lot of praise for Morton’s. Now is the time for Morton to capitalize on this. They need to not only get the people in Chicago headquarters involved, but they need to enlist their local PR folks (because some run local Twitter accounts) to reach out and develop relationships with those who are now joining the conversation praising Morton’s and saying they want to try one out.

    My two cents.

  8. Bruce Temkin says:

    Hi everyone: Thanks for the robust set of comments! As I said, Morton’s definitely got a lot of exposure from this move and it has people talking about Morton’s. I’d call that a marketing win.

  9. It’s not a marketing win unless it increases sales – beyond Shankman’s personal patronage. Stunts are cool to talk about but they don’t put butts in seats.

  10. Morton’s shows what’s at steak for customer service

  11. Michel Albienez says:

    Mr Temkin,

    Notwithstanding some times when Americans have showed great capacity for stupidity, I don’t think we as a people are foolish enough to believe that this gimmick would become a replicable service.

    Far from being only good marketing, I believe this is indicative of a promise Morton makes to its customers that it will go out of its way – not as far as the airport, but you get my meaning – to make the Morton’s experience special.

    No organization should be foolish enough to make a promise without the pork chops to back it up.

    And so, I don’t really see your point.

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