Scott Monty - Strategic Communications & Leadership Advisor

Scott Monty - Strategic Communications & Leadership Advisor

Do you want happy customers?

It's hard to imagine anyone answering "no" to that question. And yet, every single day, we see businesses that do things – perhaps through policy, because they're lazy, or they need to save money – that disenfranchise customers.

If your goal is customer happiness, what makes you think you can do anything that frustrates them?

If you're customer-centric, why are you causing customers to jump through hoops for you?

If you want to create customers for life, why are you making it so hard for them to want to come back?

One Industry Example

Anyone who has owned a car has been notified of a recall every now and then. Some are trivial, but others are potentially life-threatening. Some even come with warnings: DO NOT DRIVE YOUR CAR. LEAVE IT PARKED IN YOUR DRIVEWAY.

It's great to know that an automaker (or OEM) is so interested in the well-being of its customers. And they typically tell you that your dealer will take the car and fix it, at no cost to you.

No monetary cost, that is.

Because inevitably, it'll cost you in other ways, as you run into issues like:

  1. They're booked solid for the next two months, because everyone with the same model is trying to get the service done; or
  2. The part is back-ordered and the supplier won't have it for another three weeks; or
  3. You need to bring your car in and leave it for some period of time (a day, two days, a week...);
  4. The dealership is 35 miles away and needs you to bring it in at 11:00 a.m. on a Tuesday.
I guarantee you almost every OEM has a Customer Experience practice and they're in their meetings, talking about being "customer-centric" or wanting happy customers. And yet we run into the above.

Do any of the above challenges sound customer-centric?

Of course not. Because the culture at the company isn't aligned up and down to revolve around customers. It's designed to meet the needs of shareholders and management, who mainly look at profitability, or risk mitigation, or market share.

The funny thing is, while there's a cost to doing things for the customer, if you're making customers happy, you'll spend less on new customer acquisition. You'll have a sterling reputation. They'll even refer other customers to you. Yes, it may cost a little more up front, but you'll become unassailable.

Taking the above situation, here are some remedies:
  1. Use the data within your company (perhaps even an app, if your customers use one) to do a phased roll-out of the announcement; recommend customers go to other dealers to have the service done, to spread out the volume.
  2. Align the communications with the supply chain (this is where that newfangled blockchain might come in handy) to eliminate gaps.
  3. Pick their car up for them, or provide a free loaner for as long as they need it (something that luxury automakers already do).
  4. See above, plus provide additional staffing to keep service center open 24/7, rather than maintaining regular hours of operation.

Most of those are being done in one place or another. But it's inconsistent and it's loosely patched together.

If the culture is clear to all employees, there should be no doubt about doing the right thing for the customer.

"We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It's our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better." – Jeff Bezos

There's a reason Amazon's logo has a smile in it. They recognize the role of a good host. And they also know they're eating your lunch.

The question is whether you really want happy customers.

Because if you do, it's going to take more than words.

Image credit: The Voyage of Life - Childhood by Thomas Cole via the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D. C., online collection (Public Domain)

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