Posts Tagged ‘e-marketing’

How *not* to build a relationship with your customers

Friday, January 16th, 2009

According to a survey conducted in Australia in 2008, 42 percent of respondents said their suppliers could not adequately solve their problems, while another 20 percent had issues with inexperienced staff manning their calls. The survey reported that six out of 10 consumers had changed supplier in the past year. I  am not surprised – service providers in my country seem to be equally bad when it comes to customer service.

I have the same service provider for my fixed line (yes, I do use a fixed line at home :-) ) and mobile phone. For some time now it has been impossible to call my mobile phone from my fixed line. Dutifully I lodged a complaint with the service provider. Within a couple of days I got a call from their customer service.

“Your problem has been fixed, sir. Can I close the ticket ? ” asked a polite voice from the other end. “As far I know the problem has not been fixed, and no please do not close the ticket,” was my response. Whereupon customer rep tried to convince me why the problem was with my mobile phone. “How do you know ?” I asked him. “I had to call your mobile  number multiple times, from our land line,  before I could get through,”  promptly came the response.

This is a classic case of a vendor or customer service department being concerned about their statistics and not about the customer. Even though the customer service rep himself had experienced the problem that I had reported, he felt it was best to identify a “new” problem and treat the earlier problem as “addressed.” It did not concern him that my —the customer’s— problem had not been addressed at all.

Of course in this case, the fixed line and the mobile service business are two separate business units of the company. By fixing the blame on the mobile phone, the fixed line business was essentially making its problem someone else’s. The customer was the victim again! And this from the customer service department of the telecom company! Talk about how not to build a relationship with your customers! In an attempt to not let this drag me down, I have attempted to draw some lessons for all of us in customer facing roles.

Lesson#1 Processes and statistics are a means to improve our business operations. They should not become our end business goals.

Lesson #2 Customers are smart. They can usually see through our tricks. When that happens our businesses might have to pay a very heavy price. It is best that we try and avoid such incidences.

As for my service provider, I am making sure that I share this (less than satisfactory) experience with everyone I know.

How NOT to mail me – an open letter to AmEx

Sunday, December 7th, 2008

Dear AmEx,

I subscribe to a large number of newsletters and am subject to a whole lot of unsolicited mail as well. As a marketer, unless something is outright offensive or from someone who has ticked me off in the past, I tend to read okay, maybe not read, but glance quickly through, mails from known commercial sources. Which brings me to the topic of this post.

Earlier this morning I received an unsolicited email from you, with the subject “Get complementary domestic return tickets when you buy Overseas return tickets.” I have been your customer for eight or nine years now. And it is only recently that you have begun emailing me — what I can best term as — flyers. In essence, you have re-purposed the flyer you produced for snail mail (which I received along with my monthly bill in hardcopy)  into an ALL image email. Of course my mail client blocks the image, and what I see is this.

Notice, the creative folks at your agency have divided the image into four segments for faster loading, however no one seems to have bothered defining any ALT text, so there’s no way for me to know what this email is about, or whether I want to open it. Unless of course they felt that the subject is so compelling that I’d bother loading the image or clicking through “If you are unable to view this email please click here.” I will admit, I did load the images to view your email to me, but was not happy about it.

Last week it was a health insurance pitch and today it was this promotion with Air India. The kicker that drove me write this open letter was at the very bottom of your email, almost an afterthought which read,


Firstly I can’t unsubscribe, by just clicking a link that says Unsubscribe! I actually have to email you with REMOVE as my subject – guess I can do that. But you will take approximately two to three weeks to unsubscribe me! I had to read this thrice to make sure that I had read this right. If the whole point of emailing me is to leverage the power of this medium, clearly that doesn’t run all the way back to your database and unsubscribing me immediately!

In summary,

What worked
Sender’s name was recognizable “American Express” &
Subject told me something about what the mail was about

What didn’t work
- Using physical mailer as an all-image email content
- no ALT text usage
- non-intuitive & slow unsubscribe option

Nurture, before you ask for the next sale

Monday, December 1st, 2008

One of my friends recently received a direct mailer from a large insurance company. The e-mail read something like  -

Dear Customer,
In today’s fast paced lifestyle a term plan should be a part of your investment portfolio. This is a low premium, pure risk coverage plan that takes care of all your financial commitments towards your dependants, in case of an unfortunate situation.

Presenting a term plan that provides you with a life cover up to 75 years of age.

My friend was quite upset and justifiably so. He was an existing customer of the company – he had purchased two very high premium policies with the company a couple of years ago. During this period, the company had never bothered to get in touch with my friend until they wanted to sell him something again. My friend has resolved never to recommend the company to anyone he knows.

There are lessons in this anecdote for all businesses.

Lesson #1
Be very careful about what you send out to customers. They can tell if you really value their relationship with you. Sending out the same standard e-mailer to everyone, including your high worth customers, gives away the fact that you do not really perceive them differently. This tempts customers to take their business to someone who makes them feel different.

Lesson #2
Nurture existing relationships irrespective of whether you have to sell something new or not. Research has shown buyers tend to buy from people they trust even if all things are not equal. You can let your customers know that you value the relationship by being in regular touch with them. Even better, you can get customers to value the relationship by providing them with useful information every time you get in touch with them.

So next time when you reach out to your existing customers for a sale,  ask yourself the question, “Have I nurtured the relationship enough to ask for a repeat sale?”