Sunday, October 04, 2009

A tale of two customer experiences: When "bugging" the customer works...and doesn't

We customers are a prickly and thorny bunch. I get that. We want companies to get it just right, and "just right" seems to change based on the circumstances. We also often seem to swing between complaining or saying nothing...and yet if you dare for one minute to assume that "no news is good news" when it comes to customers, you'll probably regret it.

But sometimes I think companies don't spend very much time putting themselves in the customer's shoes.

Case #1: Don't bug me with your customer surveys...until I've got something to say

Most of my life I've had GM cars, from my first car: a hand me down '72 Chevy Impala to the two Saturns I've owned in the last 12 years or so. The Saturn folks, in particular, are very customer-focused, and I had my moments over the eight years or so that I owned Saturns of being bugged. Bugged by that snail mail survey post-routine service. Followed up by the phone survey. And sometimes an email survey. I'm guessing I didn't take the vast majority of those surveys. Everything was fine. No need to spend my precious time responding.

Now, I have a Honda Civic Hybrid. I've had it a little over a year, and I noticed something when I took it in for its routine service. They didn't wash the car before giving it back. I don't mean a fancy detailing, but my experience with both Saturn and Audi (the two brands that I got and serviced through dealers) was that any service was topped off with a nice, basic exterior wash of the car. Not so with Honda. And it bugged me. "Well, when i get my post-service survey, I will certainly let them know that this is a little thing that goes a long way!", I thought to myself. (When the truth is, it is its omission that goes a long way.)

Only I never got that survey, They didn't bug me via snail mail, telephone or email. No bugging at all. Which, you guessed it, bugs me to no end.

And the moral of the story is: Yes, it's a bummer that people, including me, enjoy complaining more than they enjoy sharing praise. Yes, people will ignore your surveys, and you will struggle to get healthy response rates and actionable feedback.

But you have to ask. Because otherwise, you have a customer like me who may be perfectly satisfied with my vehicle, but may think much less of the brand...over a very tiny thing.

And really, would it hurt you to rinse my car down after you've worked on it?

Case #2: That's great you want to protect me, but you're protecting me from the wrong things

I'm about to cancel a credit card I've had for 17 years. As soon as my new card comes from a different company, I'm canceling the old one, even though it will be a pain in the butt, given the auto-charges I have set up on it.


Because in their eagerness to be consumer protection leaders, they are protecting me from purchases that set off no typical alarm bells and are, in fact, with companies I do business with regularly. Over the last few months I have had numerous transactions declined/held, or that triggered a check-in call to me that I had to return and deactivate.

This is all to protect me from fraud using my card. I should be grateful, right? So, why am I so bugged?

-Because in 17 years of having this card I've never missed a payment, never had a fraudulent charge and I'm never near my limit.
-Because their auto-bot phone system never accounts for voicemail messages and leaves half-messages on my machine.
-Because they actually sent an email with a link to click to approve a if any bank should encourage their customers to trust such emails from banks! And yet when I went to the site to do it directly, it is impossible to find any place to do so. Hence, the wasted time making phone calls.
-Because they declined my annual donation to the Humane Society!
-Because they made me call to approve my annual domain name renewal charges...with the same company made at the same time every year for the last 6 years.
-Because they made me call to approve a purchase for $8.99 on my Kindle.

I mean, if you're going to protect me, at least protect me from the anomalous charges! Not the ones that are part of my regular spending pattern. Don't tell me you don't have the systems to say, oh yes, she has made 20 donations to the Humane Society in the last ten years, I think she means it.

And lastly, when I called, no one really had anything to offer me to improve my experience, not even the hallowed "supervisor". A shrug of the shoulders is what I got.

And losing a long-time customer is what they're going to get.

All because they bugged me. But really because they made me feel like an anonymous, random cog in their machine, not a long-time valued customer.

And that's the common thread here. It's not so hard to make customers feel like you know then, that you think about them and care about what they think.

The surveys no one responds to? Doesn't mean we don't get the message that you want to hear about what we think. Doesn't mean we won't notice if you decide to stop asking us.

Checking in on purchases when I traveled overseas? Didn't bug me at all...I knew that charging something from Africa was a bit out of the norm (to say the least). That's protection I appreciate. Calling me three times in one month about penny-ante and even regular charges? Declining a charitable donation in a non-outrageous amount? Senseless aggravation.

Customers are a prickly bunch. But we actually make sense most of the time.

Labels: , , , , ,

I had the exact same experience with my card company--they called me on my domain registrar that I've used for 8+ years on the same card! And for a $10 charge to skype! They put a hold on my card for a $10 charge to skype. Sheesh.
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?