Saturday, November 05, 2005

Customer Experience

If asked, most small business owners would say they'd like to make more money. Some would also say more free time and so on. All pretty standard replies. So how does someone break free of the competition. Effective marketing and a great customer experience. What does that mean for most Small, Medium Enterprizes (SME's) and are the standard answers reality?

Well first effective marketing has to be affordable, then it has to generate a return in terms of new customer traffic which when converted will mean increased sales. Sounds reasonable right? So why is it that I see so many SME's dropping the ball on so many different levels regarding good marketing practices? Actually they're terrific at marketing just in a negative way, let me explain what I mean.

Not truly understanding that marketing is actually any corporate communication with the customer of any sort whatsoever, many SME's go about their day doing a lousy job (usually they don't think they're doing a lousy job) all the while sending the wrong marketing message and generating a lousy customer experience.

Following is a list of potential examples of poor marketing practices and my pet peeves:

Lousy customer service in general, no follow-up or lack of a customer appreciation program, lack of a customer loyalty program, rude phone behavior, essentially everytime you buy something from a store and they ask you for personal information and when you say no the 16 yr old gives you attitude, business cards off an inkjet, calling corporate collections agents - customer service reps - they're not that at all!

SIDEBAR: I once got a free digital camera from a financial institution because their "collections agent" AKA "customer service rep" kept saying that I wasn't paying my bills and to top it off my phone number was on (another pet peeve of mine) an AUTO DIALER, and the agent said "they couldn't remove my number from the machine" of course I wasn't late, the agent lied to me about the number on the dialer and after much hassle they finally admitted fault but only after I threatened to report the company, agent and head of the department to Corporate and Consumer Affairs and ensure someone lost their license to collect, they decided to buy me off and so I was then able to buy a digital camera. I certainly wasn't treated like a customer or given great service by the rep (true story). Hold companies responsible and accountable for poor service.

Pet Peeves Cont: Inconsistent logos and colors across the corporate marketing collateral which errodes the brand, no formal signature at the end of an email,
snotty receptionists that take the job of gatekeeper too seriously - remember they don't have the power to close the deal but they have the power to kill it. Hidden costs in small print at the Sears store for family photo's - in other words, they are the greasy used car salesman of photo's and if I've offended Sears or greasy used car sales guys GOOD! Quit being dirt bags and treat consumers with respect.

People it's time to hold yourself accountable for how your company is perceived in the world. I'm holding my company to the same standard. One thing you'll come to learn about my company and me personally as a consultant. I'm in your face, especially when it relates to you the business owner doing a poor job, you don't hire my firm to kiss butt and tell you what a great job you're doing even though you're stinking up the joint. IF you want more money and a better life, then pay attention to every detail as it relates to the Customer Experience and make sure it's a great one. Even AFTER they buy from you and I guarantee you'll find room for improvement and that improvement will start leading to more business.

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