I was reminded this week that the biggest blow to customer loyalty usually does not come from making a mistake. The real damage comes from mishandling how mistakes and misunderstandings get addressed.
For the past several months, my latte habit has been putting $12 or so each week into our local McDonalds’ coffers. But as I drove home this week, I found myself thinking that lattes shouldn’t have “texture” to them.
When I got home, I decided to take the lid off and examine it. I’m not sure what the residue around the cup or at the bottom of it was, but it didn’t look like stuff I wanted to ingest. My best guess was that their machine had not been properly cleaned.
The drive-up window of this McDonalds has long had a phone number conspicuously posted to solicit customer comments. I had written it down long ago but had not called it before. The lady who answered the line seemed a bit confused. After listening to my issue and theory, she said, “Well, this is the business office. You’d want to tell that to the district manager. I can give you his cell phone number.” I chuckled, “Uh… can’t you just call him?” She merrily chirped, “We’re the business office. We don’t handle those kinds of issues.” Okie dokie then.
So, I wrote down the cell phone number she gave and called the district manager. He answered his phone, well, like a guy answering his personal cell phone. It took him a few seconds to realize how I had gotten his number and why I was calling him.
I told my story again, and he offered, “Gee, that shouldn’t happen.” (Gee, you think?)
He said he would definitely pass my comment along. He did not, however, apologize or make the slightest gesture to make up for my bad experience.
If anything, I was more irritated for having wasted my time trying to help them fix a problem. They took what was an opportunity to at least thank me for that act and instead turned it into an even more negative customer experience. Worse still (for them) I really can’t see myself playing latte-roulette with that location in the future.
Customers who bring legitimate service issues to your attention are providing some of the most valuable “consulting” you’ll ever receive. How ready and willing are you to receive it? As important, how ready are you to respond in a manner that shows you value their feedback and their business?
One of my favorite topics in presentations is discussing how new technologies that are often dismissed as trivial or faddish end up having game-changing impact on industries. During the past few weeks I have (begrudgingly) come to realize that “text messaging” is undeniably such a technology.
The funny thing to me is the clear dichotomy that exists today between people who live by the “text” and those who loath the very thought of “thumbing” a message. And while I may still be a Luddite who emails more than “texts” each day, I’ve been witnessing too many neat business uses of text messaging recently to ignore.
My wife and I like to kill time on Sunday afternoons by shopping for homes. (I said shopping, not buying.) And one of our pet peeves is houses with “For Sale” signs that make absolutely no information (fliers, etc.) readily available.
This week, we came upon a house with a sale sign in the front yard that gave a number to text for more information. When my wife did, she instantly received a reply text with great detail and pictures of the inside of the house.
The text also made it easy to contact the realtor to ask questions or to set up a visit. It instantly “spoiled” us for that service. As we drove that neighborhood, we particularly sought out that realtor’s signs, knowing they offered that really cool service.
The DVD-renter Red Box recently offered a smart texting promo to generate extra visits to their units. Each Monday, my wife received a text with a code for a free rental. She frequently used it, and more often than not, also rented other movies while standing at a Red Box machine.
My point isn’t that text messaging is the future of marketing. But its growing ubiquity is a reminder that customers are increasingly able to decide how, when, and what we will be allowed to communicate to them. They’ll decide, not us.
Businesses that give folks the most communication options and the best reasons to grant them “permission marketing” access will have real competitive advantages.
Whether you use texts, email, or good ol’ postcards and phone calls, how are you building your permission marketing database? And what value are you providing those customers to continue to earn that privilege? Out of sight is out of mind. Try to make sure you’re not either for very long.