Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Customer delight .. and customer dismay

Thinking about being customer focused has made me a lot more aware of how some companies behave and a few recent examples seem noteworthy.

Just a few days ago, I wrote to company that assists me when my car breaks down to enquire whether their service has VAT on it or not. There is no mention of it on the invoice, but I assumed it must. A few other folk had wondered too and posted things on the internet. One such person had a reply saying that a VAT invoice would cost him £15. He was outraged and complained vigorously. I sent a polite email enquiring about a VAT invoice. They informed me that it would cost £15 for a VAT invoice, but made no mention of whether there was VAT on their service. There isn’t. It would have been easier (and shown some thought for the customer) to just say so. I don’t think that is customer-focused; to the point of being obstreperous. It’s a good job their roadside manner is so superb.

On the plus side, I recently had my hair done at a new salon. On the morning of the appointment they called me. O-oh I thought. My heart sank as I envisaged the stylist being ill, or changing the day, or the usual reasons that hairdressers call. No. It was none of those reasons. As my appointment was at lunch time they wanted to know if I wanted a complimentary sandwich. I was literally speechless for a moment or two. I then recovered and said “Yes please – a salmon one”. How customer focused are they? They totally understand the stresses of their customers getting their hair done in the lunch hour. I was one delighted customer - who is telling ALL her friends!

Then today I had reason to return a bottle of booze to my local supermarket. They are part of a company which prides itself on not selling more expensive than the competition. And advertises the fact. When I pointed out that another supermarket was selling it for £5 less (I’m not making this up) they said – "that doesn’t apply to us!" Not – “we will make sure we check it out”. Or, “thank you for telling us”. But with a solemn face – “that doesn’t apply to us”. I’ll be watching their prices a lot more carefully in future.

Now “the customer is always right” doesn’t mean that the customer IS always right. Many customers belly-ache about bad service but still go back. Perhaps because the product is so good or perhaps because they have no choice. But when a company comes along with a good product, and little ways of delighting their customers, the customer switches without a backwards glance.

These instances show something of these companies attitude to their customers. Funnily enough the hairdresser is expanding, taking over the city-centre premises next door, and taking on more staff. Coincidence? Maybe. But there again, maybe not.

12 comments:

  1. Michael Dempsey11 May 2011 at 16:45

    I am surprised at your supermarket story, especially if it was Waitrose. I thought they operated the John Lewis 'never knowingly undersold' maxim. But I suppose it depends on how the business wants to differentiate itself. Ryanair does so purely on price - although it isn't cheap - and so gets away with treating its customers like manure. People go back (amazingly) just because of the price. Virgin (using some outdated and sexist advertising, it has to be said) offers quality and service and people go back for that. So it's always a shock if one gets good service from Ryanair (does it happen?) or bad service from Virgin - or Waitrose.

    I go to the opera a lot and mostly I refuse to pay Royal Opera House prices. We go more to English National Opera, which is cheaper and more exciting. But the audiences at the ROH are much more likely to boo and hiss than those at ENO, almost certainly because they are subliminally comparing the cost of their tickets with the quality of what they have seen or heard. It's all about expectations, isn't it?

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