Every once in a while, I think about my own experiences as a customer/consumer and the lessons we can learn from our daily lives. Just recently, for instance:
The good: I purchased a Pur faucet filter attachment for my kitchen, which sprang a leak after just a couple of months of use. So, I went to the Pur website, found out they’re owned by P&G (isn’t everything?), and shot them an email message. Two hours later I had a response; 1.5 weeks later I received a coupon for a free replacement filter. Now that’s customer service.
The bad: I ordered the Wii Fit on the Toys R Us website the other day, since they were one of the few retailers showing it in stock. Two days later, they notified me it was actually indefinitely backordered. Since I’m a slow learner, I then ordered a new diaper bag from them yesterday. Today, I received an email that the item is unavailable and has been cancelled — and, to add insult to injury, the bag is still showing in stock on their site.
The annoying: With two small kids in the house, we don’t get out a lot, so we’ll have a “date night” consisting of carryout + Netflix. There’s an Outback Steakhouse quite close to our house, and we often used their online ordering service … until it abruptly stopped working about 4 months back with a message that the service was “temporarily unavailable.” About a month ago, I emailed to see when it might be back up, and got a generic email back saying that they’re sorry, but the online ordering feature “is unavailable at this time.” We’d noticed. This seems a small issue, but: You call Outback Steakhouse, you get put on hold for 5 minutes, then your order is taken by a very brusque person who inevitably gets part of it wrong. So now our “date night” conversations often go like this: “Want to get Outback?” “It’s not worth the hassle, let’s get XYZ instead.”
The neat: Speaking of Netflix, they recently announced a new box from Roku that allows you to easily stream unlimited “watch it now” online video to your TV. (Ours is, of course, on backorder.) While most current content isn’t available on “watch it now” (thank you, Hollywood licensing) this seems like it will be an awesome supplement and an easy way to watch older material when we’re waiting for DVDs to arrive. Right now I have 16 “watch it now” titles in my queue, and that’s without even trying; I’m hoping this inspires us to drop DirecTV down a tier.
The addictive: Starbucks launched some kind of new brew about a month ago — darned if I can tell the difference — but they gave away “free coffee Wednesday” promo cards at the time, good for free tall coffees every Wed. for a month. Apparently, I can drink a lot of coffee on a Wednesday… But, that aside, now I’ve established a habit: Wednesday = coffee day. Today’s the last day for their little card, but I’m guessing my association with coffee Wednesdays might last a bit longer.
The headslapping: I purchased some items at Kohl’s using a gift card, so my total out-of-pocket expense came to $.64. I gave the cashier $.75, and she accidentally punched in $75.00 — and froze like a deer in the headlights. “We need to VOID THIS TRANSACTION!” I say: “Why don’t you just give me the $.11 in change, the register will still come out even?” “HOW DO YOU KNOW IT’S $.11! We need to just VOID it!” Meanwhile, the line backs up behind me while we wait for a manager to come and re-ring the entire transaction and give me back my… $.11. “How did you know?!”
The smart: I recently decided it was time to register LISjobs.com as a business, so filed a DBA with my local county. The other day, I received a letter from my local library (actually, not my library, since I’m in an unincorporated area and out of district, but I’m guessing they go by ZIP code…) which welcomed me to the area, listed the business-related services the library provides, invited me to come introduce myself to their adult services department, and enclosed a brochure on “improving your bottom line.” Now that’s a good marketing idea.
So, what have I learned just from observing my own reactions?
- People are willing to put up with minor annoyances (our Netflix box on backorder…) for long-term gain.
- People are not willing to put up with minor annoyances (yes, you, Outback Steakhouse) when a viable and easy alternative exists. We have a lot of restaurants within a couple of miles of us; Outback’s generic response, rude phone service, and repeated errors has in large part cost them our business (even though my husband’s an Atkins-ish carnivore).
- People may forgive you once (I’m talking to you, Toys R Us!), but you likely won’t get a third chance.
- Loyalty can be easily earned. P&G is out a faucet attachment, but gained a repeat customer — those filters have to be replaced fairly often.
- Small gestures can create enormous goodwill. Getting the letter from my local library gave me a warm and fuzzy feeling (they noticed! they care!), at minimal cost to them. Getting free weekly coffee for a month reinforced the Starbucks habit I’d actually been trying to kick.
- Frontline staff make the biggest impression. I’ll still shop at Kohl’s, but I’ll be avoiding that cashier’s line from now on: pay attention when you’re hiring at every level.
- Make it easy for the customer. I’ve been looking for a simple way to get Netflix content to the TV, since watching on the laptop or at my desk doesn’t really cut it. By taking the step to make it simple, Netflix has created a long-term customer: I have a more positive feeling about Netflix, and, having invested in the box, I’m much less likely to switch to Blockbuster or whatever other competitor comes along.
If we pay attention, lessons in customer service and marketing can be found a lot of our daily interactions.