Are you delighting your customer?

June 18, 2009

One question that I believe every business leader should be asking himself on a regular basis is “Is my brand taking every opportunity to delight my customer?” 

I do not mean ‘satisfy’ or even ‘keep’.  I mean delight so that customers appreciate the brand, become loyal to the brand, and genuinely want to share their positive experiences with the brand with others.  This is all very important at a time when retaining customers is becoming more challenging  and when word of mouth marketing from customers is becoming more widespread through social media. 

My guess is that there are a lot of leaders who would say that they are delighting their customers or that they are trying to, but the leaders are not going through the exercise on a regular basis of mapping out every customer touch point that they have and thinking, “Are we making this a delightful experience?” 

 I witnessed two examples in the last few weeks of companies whose leaders probably think that their brands are consistently delighting their customers.  However, if the leaders went through the customer touch point exercise, they would find that there isn’t consistency.

 Example 1:  Starbucks

My first example of a company not taking advantage of every opportunity to delight its customers is Starbucks.  On May 22nd and 23rd,  Starbucks had a technical glitch and double charged everyone who used a credit or debit card to make a purchase.  Once Starbucks realized the problem, it swiftly credited all cards for the second charge.  It solved the problem and satisfied its unhappy customers, but I don’t think it delighted them.  

It missed its opportunity.  

It could have delighted its customers by crediting everyone for the original charge and the errant charge and said, “It’s our mistake, so your drink is on us.”  

Alternatively, it could have generated some positive buzz (and probably additional transactions) by crediting the errant charge and telling customers that if they brought their credit card statements into a store to show that they were impacted by the glitch, they would get a free beverage of their choice. 

 Either of these things would have resolved the problem and it would have generated goodwill with the customers that the company is trying so hard to keep.

Example 2:  Land’s End

Recently I purchased three pieces of clothing from Land’s End online.  I am very petite, and I ordered two petite items and one regular size item, all in XS.  I had intended to order all three items in petite, but I accidentally ordered one in the wrong size.  I was obviously very disappointed and angry with myself when the regular size of one of the items arrived.  The ‘salt in the wound’ in this experience was when I had to send back the wrong item, and pay for shipping due to my error.  Now, I understand.  I messed up, but I would have been delighted if Land’s End had been so gracious to pick up the shipping of the return if I reordered the right size.  But they didn’t, and I wasn’t delighted. 

To take this one step further, if Land’s End really wanted to delight its customers, it could think about adding a ‘smart step’ into its online ordering process.  This would be something that when the system sees that someone orders two items in one size and a third in another size, it could just politely ‘flag’ to the customer that this is happening.  Just a nice “Are you sure you want this item in regular?”  

I know that might be a very expensive update to their online system, but if that had happened, I would have been very delighted because it would have helped me catch my mistake. 

 And I bet I would have told my friends about it. 

The Moral of the Story

These are just a couple of examples to help illustrate that there are all kinds of opportunities where companies could delight their customers, but they are being missed.  The best way to find them is to grab a few colleagues (or better yet a few customers) and map out all the brand’s customer interactions and dive into them.  Don’t just check the box and satisfy.  Strive for delight.  I bet some things come to light that wouldn’t be too hard or expensive to do and that would drive a long-term positive reward for the brand and for its customers.

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The tragic irony of cutting marketing in a recession

June 4, 2009

Do you ever have one of those days when it seems that the things you read and the conversations you have revolve around a particular theme?  I am having one of those days.  The theme is the tragic irony of companies cutting marketing spending during a recession.

 This theme surfaced this morning in a conversation I had about the unfortunate tendency of not for profits eliminating marketing spending during a recession, and then again when I was reading an article in AdAge warning CMOs about the dangers of cutting marketing resources

I call this theme a tragic irony because it really is about a company’s well intentioned actions bringing about a fatal result.  A company might decide to cut investment in marketing in an attempt to save money, but in doing so, it cuts off its ability to drive revenue. 

 What you are really cutting

At its most basic level, marketing is all about communicating with your consumer to understand what he needs and then to help him satisfy those needs.  You can satisfy his needs by either showing/telling him how your product or service helps him or by developing new products or services that better meet his evolving needs.  If a company decides to stop or reduce marketing in a recession (when consumers are reviewing every purchase with more scrutiny than ever before), how can it expect to keep its current consumers and revenue streams, let alone appeal to new ones?  More importantly, if a company decides to stop or reduce marketing, but its competitor continues marketing, it is likely to lose consumers to the competitor who is better engaging them.

 Consider reallocation before cutting

With all of that said, I definitely understand and recommend the idea of directing marketing investment towards the most efficient and effective marketing tools in a recession.  A recession isn’t necessarily the time to get overly ‘experimental’ with marketing tools to see what works.  Investing in the tools that are proven to work with your consumer is a strong strategy when money is tight and the future is uncertain.  The key is that a company continues to invest in marketing, and perhaps just chooses the very best tools.  This is about a reallocation of dollars within a marketing budget, not a reduction of the marketing budget.

To companies out there who are currently considering making cuts to their marketing investments, I urge you to reconsider.  You are taking a treacherous path.  Marketing is your way to keep your relationship going with your consumer.  Cutting off or reducing that relationship will cut off or reduce your revenue, and that seems tragically ironic.