Posts Tagged ‘customer loyalty’

Frankenstein

The irate customer is our own creation.

I have faced customers and members spitting mad, so mad I thought they may be on the verge of a cardiac event (we have an AED on site).  I usually smile — not patronizingly, simply because I know they are right.  Unreasonable?  Yes.  Delusional? Sometimes.  Insulting?  Occasionally.  Wrong?  Not always.  The customer may not always be “right”, but when they are “wrong” it may be our doing, not theirs.

When a customer “loses it” the event is a great time for organizational introspection.  Peeling back the layers of the rotten onion and what do we usually find — we created an expectation that was not delivered.  Kind of like the CSI of customer service failure.  In a membership organization like ours we live and die by member attrition and retention.  They are our lifeblood, our fans, donors, advocates, evangelists, end-users and our finest critics.

Absolutely everything we do is marketing.  The program starting late, broken bottle in the parking lot, dirty restrooms, inattentive welcome staff, broken equipment — it is all marketing.  The gap between expectations and actual experiences occurs in our marketing/advertising message and through our delivery.  We must live in and master that gap.  It is where we will thrive.

“It is 12 times more expensive to gain a new customer that keep a current customer”…BLAH, BLAH, BLAH!!!  Who really cares, if you’re marketing a mansion and serving up a double-wide you’ll have neither.

We must lead by expectations, just as we lead the experience.  “Your call is very important to us…”  Then why isn’t anyone talking to me?  I am absolutely convinced that the line about the call be recorded for customer service monitoring is to prevent nuts like me from really going off.

“The ad said.”  “Your flier states.”  “Your promotion reads.”  Fine print?!  Darn, the line to use the Haldron Collider (world’s largest microscope) was too long and I couldn’t use it read the fine print.  In the last nanosecond of the TV commercial I was supposed to read that there is only one model available at that price with those features?  And it’s in Yuma?  And it was only for sale for 17 minutes on the 2nd Thursday of the month only if my last name ended “Q”?  Oh, but you can show me a similar model, different color, no features, different brand, and no warranty?  No thank you and I didn’t know there was such a thing as upgraded AM HD radio.  We sit back comfortably righteous knowing that if they’d taken the time to read the fine print or didn’t have such high expectations they would know we’re right.  Wrong.  We’d have time to sit back because we would have no one to serve.  I tell my staff that if it won’t fit in a text message (or a tweet – 140 characters) we will not advertise it or promote it.  Keep it simple.

If you are promising the world.  Deliver it. Otherwise get real.

Ads I’ve spied this month:

You won’t find lower prices, ever. (make a bet)
Take 10 years off today. (botox sign – can I select which years?)
Lose 25 lbs. in a week. (cutting limbs off?)
We drive a hard bargain. (you’re tough to negotiate with?)
We are the cheapest in town. (is it safe?  is it stolen?)

What if we kept it real?  What if our advertising matched what we could deliver?  Marketing our true selves.

You won’t be ready for the runway, but we’ll make sure you can handle the stairway.
Bikinis aren’t for all of us so we’ll have you swimsuit ready in 12 weeks.
Stop chasing a six pack, we’ll help you lose the keg.
Participating in our family programs won’t make you a better family, but you’ll sure have fun…together.

Under promise and over deliver?  No.  Promise what you can deliver.

An irate customer we’ve only had a brief relationship with is our fault.  We communicated an expectation that we would not or could not deliver.

Keep it real.  Keep your customers.

Photo by: Frank Stein

photo by: veggiegretzEven the best meltdown.  Break down.  Burnout.

I’m embarrassed to share that I actually said to a member (jokingly of course), “be careful or we’ll go ‘jetblue’ on you.”  Prior to social media and its viral tendencies, the act of one clearly stressed, burnt out, and unhappy employee would barely make a ripple other than a news story and great conversation fodder for those that had a front row seat for the escapade.

Social media has created the opportunity for this clown to achieve some sort of folk hero status — who will book him first: the FAA, The View or Oprah?  Dutifully, the media has paraded out his Mom (who not surprisingly defends his actions) and neighbors to create a surreal, anecdotal profile of this customer service nightmare.

As a leader who entrusts many employees to lead the brand experience we strive to share with members, the entire fiasco makes me cringe.  The flight attendant must own his reaction, actions and behavior and must be held fully accountable for the myriad of violations.  As the tale unfolds it will be interesting to learn if there was any inclination or precursors in the work environment that could have triggered some sort of alert that this guy was on edge.

Has Jetblue lost some of its allure and mystique?  They certainly work in one of the most challenging and demanding industries and niche.  For leaders to look at something like this is like peeling back the layers of an onion — and it may bring tears.

One of my membership service idols Alice Sawyer (link to her site) often shared, “If you don’t feed your staff, they will eat your members.”  Could this be one isolated incident or the harbinger of a serious organization-wide morale breakdown?

It is clear the actions of this veteran flight attendant did not reflect the values, mission or goals of Jetblue.  A strong focus on customer loyalty should be built on a solid foundation of employee loyalty which includes embracing the company values.

Jeff Bezos of Amazon fame says it is better to “obsess over customers, not competitors.”  It may behoove Jetblue to look internally rather than in a southwest direction.

As a leader, what actions do you take to ensure staff happiness, contentment, satisfaction, and relevance?  How would you respond to the outcry, laughter, and perceptions in the traditional media and social media universes?

Feed your employees and make it more than a small bag of peanuts.

I’d like to note that I do not make light of the tragedies that occurred in postal offices and that I have, do and likely will in the future fly with Jetblue.