Saturday, October 09, 2004

A Little Story About Communication

Even when you think you're being perfectly clear, things go awry, and I had my own personal experience with that recently.

A member of one of my many online communities posted a notice looking for people interested in going to see a preview of a show with him, playing at one of my client's. I immediately emailed him and said:

"FYI: I'm just starting to do some promotion work for xxx theatre, and there will be a discount offer for that night. I don't have it set up yet, but it's coming. So don't purchase tickets yet! Also, I will go on that evening, although I think I can get comps from them. So add me to your list, at least for the dinner part."

Later when I got the offer hammered out, I emailed again (Subject Line = Discount for xxx):

"xxx Theatre has decided on all seats at $12 for the previews. You can go to this URL to order online" (The URL followed.)

The URL took him to a page that allowed you to order tickets online via PayPal or call, and the page said to use a promotion code. I however, never specified all those details in my email, I just told him to go to that URL.

There's the big mistake. And there were two misunderstandings.

Misunderstanding #1: Despite my mentioning both times a discount he should take advantage of, and giving him a URL to go order tickets, he only remembered and focused on my mentioning I could get comps. I literally meant I could get comps for me only, so he should order his tickets without me. But we had to clarify that in several more emails, and he told me he was "miffed" with me about it!

Misunderstanding #2: By directing him to the URL to get more info, I didn't close the deal. I'm not sure if he ever went to the URL or not. But once he understood, no, he had to buy his $12 tickets, he showed up live and in person at the box office asking for yes, the $12 tickets. He didn't have the promotion code, and he didn't order online or via phone, which were the two methods specified in the URL I tried to send him to. So he ended up having to argue with the live, in-person box office person quite a bit to get his discount. And I have no idea whether, in the end, it will go down as a trackable sale for me or not.

So what have we learned?:

1. Certain things catch people's the words FREE, or COMPS. They lose all ability to appreciate the finer details, the fine print, once their eyes are dazzled by the FREE word.

2. People don't always follow instructions. You should instruct them while you have their attention. Telling someone to visit a URL to get more info is often done. But if you've already got their attention, why not give them all the info, and send them somewhere else just to execute, if you must?

3. People hold on to these little disappointments. I was actually quite taken aback that my theatre-going companion would express aggravation with me, several weeks later, when from my perspective he is the one who clearly mis-read and misunderstood. And getting comps for a group of five people is certainly expecting a lot. But, it's not the point. People don't immediately shed their dissatisfaction when they realize they were somehow all or in part to blame for it. And it simply illustrates that a bad customer experience will far outlive a good one. I'm sure my friend has no recollection that he was about to go buy full price tickets until I stopped him. But he'll remember the miscommunication.

Why is this here in my Worker Bees Blog, and not my Personal Blog?

Because at its heart this is a story about communication, clear messaging and customer satisfaction.

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