It happened again -- I was thanked for being a customer. This time, I received a hand written card from SwimOutlet.com, an online swim shop, thanking me for being such a loyal customer. Sure, we buy from SwimOutlet.com a lot as we have four swimmers in the family and from time to time I contact their customer service center to return an item or query an order. To this day, every interaction I have ever had with SwimOutlet.com has been favorable, which is why I still buy from them, but it meant a lot to me to be acknowledged as a customer.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not the kind of person that craves affirmation but as a marketing professor, and probably a critical consumer, I have become increasingly concerned by the way in which organizations treat their customers. What organizations seem to overlook is that the reason they are in business is because of customers. I think the recession has exacerbated the mistreatment of customers because many organizations did cut the number of people performing customer service roles in an effort to reduce costs. The consequence is that we as customers often have to do more of the "work" that the organization once did for us.
There is no doubt that I get irked by having to do the organization's work for them. Worse still, however, are the long waits I endure before I can speak to a person when I contact a customer service center. My record so far is one hour -- this is the time it took an operator to pick up my call on the Internet for a live chat. I only waited because I would get messages telling me how many people were ahead of me and I foolishly thought that being 5th in line wasn't a bad thing (just in case you are wondering, I was on speaker phone and kept working while I was waited to be helped).
There are other organizations I like to deal with. When I phone Register.com, the organization that hosts some of my websites, a live operator answers my call and then directs me to the appropriate person. Sure, I sometimes wait 5-10 minutes to speak to someone who can resolve my query but it makes a difference to me to have a real person direct my call in the first instance because I don't much care for listening to menu options to figure out where I need to go for help. AAA is another organization that understands its livelihood depends on customers. Anytime I call AAA, which is normally at the end of the year when the insurance premium is declared for the following year, I am thanked for my 6 years (and growing) of business with AAA.
So, remember the reason you are in business is because of the customers who try your products or services once and come back for more. When was the last time you "mystery shopped" your organization so as to see your organization from the customers' point of view? What do you do to make your customers feel valued?
Jenny Darroch is on the faculty at the Drucker School at Claremont Graduate University. She is an expert on marketing strategies that generate growth. See www.MarketingThroughTurbulentTimes.com