Customers Are Lost When They Think You Don’t Care




“Well, when you guys tell her, she’s not just finding out about the accident. She’s finding out that her life is basically a setup.” – Henry, “50 First Dates,” 2004, Columbia Pictures

Despite what Amazon, Google, Yahoo and Facebook do to convince companies that they represent the pathway to the future; the success/failure of a company is not about the mindless pursuit of data. Successful companies – really successful companies – focus on the creative interaction individuals have with individuals. You know day-in, day-out; all the time, every time.

Here are two examples (one storefront, one ecommerce):
- My wife just bought a new car from the same manufacturer we’ve dealt with for 20+ years … worst experience in her/my life!
- A client CEO sends me customer comments not about their great product but on their sales/service experience. He also sends them to everyone in the organization … subtle reinforcement of what counts!

The Auto Experience
Maybe it’s unfair to pick on cars; after all, they only represent your second biggest expense so should it really be pleasant?

Still:
* If it was her car, you would think they would talk to her instead of me … I’m just along for the ride.
* Why call me on the “orientation/delivery” day/time? I don’t keep her calendar.
* If she was verbally promised protective rubber floor mats, why didn’t it happen? “They didn’t make enough money on the car” – really?
* Why would the sales person who was going to give her the orientation pass her off to another person because someone came who had missed his initial appointment?
* Orientation — 15-minutes of instructions, a 16-page “quick study guide” and a “have fun.”
* After getting home, she called to ask why the new car registration slip wasn’t placed in the front window. Kinda’ normal but was told, “It’s O.K., you don’t really need it anyway.”
* I received the email new customer experience evaluation form and forwarded it to her … it wasn’t nice; but obviously, no one read it because she received as a form email … “Gee we tried!”

I won’t name names because I was used to the ongoing joking, “You really need two cars – one to drive while the other is in for repairs.” I was used to 2-3 visits to the service department to solve one problem. They always find a new issue that’s … not covered by/out of warranty! When Ford owned the brand, quality was improved but the channel remained the same. Because of the experience, I have to find another brand when I begin my search for a new set of wheels. That ticks me off!

Ula’s kid observed, “But your stitches are bleeding.” They couldn’t believe the female in the family makes the final decision. If the guy made the decision, most of the cars on the road would be burnt orange convertibles. Instead, they’re black, white, silver 4-doors or miniSUVs. You know … practical. Guys may “buy” the car but wives “let ‘em.” It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out how family purchases work. Maybe Tesla’s Musk had a similar experience and said, “Not on my watch!”

Monitored, Circulated Feedback
The CEO I mentioned – we’ll call him Larry – reads almost every prospect, customer comment/feedback posted on the web site and social media. He’s been doing it since he started the business more than 25 years ago.Issues, questions go to the appropriate people. Compliments go to everyone – in every area.

Why?
- Saying you’re a social, customer-centric business is easy.
- Hiring the best people possible who have a customer focus is difficult – not impossible, just difficult.
- Guiding, training, assisting team members to focus on the customer is a never-ending process – people get overworked, stressed, stuff happens
- Nothing reinforces the importance of the customer like congratulating individuals in private and publicly. Recognition is more powerful than money, free time, a new title or a bigger desk!

“I give a dam about you” trumps Likes, CRM systems and Big Data, analytics every day of the week! As Henry said, “Appreciate your time. Not everybody would have stopped like you.” Success is measured by creative human activity and interaction, not by data hoarding. Consumers aren’t stupid. They’re not targets of opportunity. They have the same tools a company has to evaluate manufacturers, products, reputations … and they use them. Companies that don’t build strong communities can’t achieve their full potential without reaching and empowering everyone in the solution chain, including channel partners and customers.

Social and data silos don’t cut it. As Stewart Brand said in the late ’60s, “On the one hand information wants to be expensive, because it’s so valuable. The right information in the right place just changes your life. On the other hand, information wants to be free,” Nothing is more valuable than customer feedback. Nothing is more expensive than feedback that isn’t shared. In today’s always-on, always-connected world it’s not difficult to figure out the consumer. He/she will tell you! When Lucy hears, sees, reads the response she says, “Not good enough.”

Earn It – If you’re interested in building a strong, lasting relationship with customers – business and consumer – all you have to do is ask them … they’ll tell you. Or, you can do something even more difficult – ask yourself what you would want if you were sitting on the other side of the desk or screen. Today’s customer has big expectations that manufacturers – and their channel partners – have to address every day of the week. Every step of the customer journey, from consideration all the way through the post-sales service phase, isn’t just important … it’s mandatory. Gone are the days of 24-48 hour response times. Consumers expect instant interaction, action.

Delivering on consumer expectations of immediacy requires:
- Managed automation that immediately delivers routine product information
- Presence with the customer across the entire purchase cycle
- Transparent, constant sharing of information across the manufacturer/consumer ecosystem

Simply getting more social business tools and analytics won’t deliver solutions to the expanding, changing networks of connected people.

Selling Tools – Marketers love the Internet and all the tools it provides to interest, entice, sell more stuff to more and more people. Unfortunately, service isn’t high on the priority list because it’s an expense, right? Wrong!

Ironically, the recent Evergage study didn’t put service/support as a firm’s top social objective. Simple one-to-many and one-to-one approaches would provide the answers if management/team members would simply ask themselves what do they want when they’re buying something:
- FAQs, how-to written, video assistance, guidance
- Public answers on Twitter, Facebook, individually when a question is asked

People value shopping as an experience, and not just as a transaction. Focusing on more data, more analytics limits that experience. As Lucy said, “Nothing beats a first kiss.” Make that first encounter the best you can possibly deliver and it can lead to many more first dates and something special. Or, as Henry will tell you, “”Sorry we couldn’t trick you today. Here’s some pictures of your broken head.” Me? I have to think about what car I’ll buy in a year or two … at least I have a little time to do the research – online! Just hate the idea of not supporting the British/Indian economies any more.

andym
About the author:
Andy has worked in front of and behind the TV camera and radio mike. Unlike most PR people he listens to and understands the consumer’s perspective on the actual use of products. He has written more than 100 articles in the business and trade press. During this time he has also addressed industry issues and technologies not as corporate wishlists but how they can be used by normal people. Unable to hold a regular 9-5 job, he has been a marketing and communications consultant for more than ...


  

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