6. Thank your customers in deed, not just words – This is about demonstrating that you appreciate their business and relationship. It certainly includes saying “thank you.” But it also includes doing something that is unexpected, like gifting your customers. It’s not a bribe! (We don’t nor should anyone do business that way regardless of cultural norms. It is not an ethical norm!) It’s merely a civility. It could be a VIP upgrade on American Airlines or a coupon handed to you as you enter the Flagship lounge for a complimentary beverage at the bar. It may be the presence of snacks and refreshments in your hotel room when you arrive, with a note of appreciation for staying at the hotel (using your American Express Platinum card). And, yes, it could be something as simple as a representative looking you in the eye and saying “thank you for your business. We appreciate it.” All of these ways of giving thanks help create favorable experiences that serve to engender loyalty.
7. Fess-up and correct mistakes – On a recent flight from Newark to Chicago the flight was some two hours late on an already long day. It was a great relief when the plane finally departed. Weather delays happen. However, what doesn’t always happen, thank goodness, are mechanical problems and more specifically engine problems that are discovered in mid-flight. And, that’s what transpired. Consequently the aircraft diverted to Cleveland. The passengers were, in time (within 1-hour), boarded on another aircraft and flown to Chicago in the wee hours of the morning. A day that started at 4:45am did not end until 3:00am the following morning. American Airlines promptly sent out a letter (not an email) apologizing for the aircraft problem and inconvenience it caused. But they went one step further. They credited my account with an additional 20,000 air miles. Did this correct potential engine malfunction problems? No, but one would believe given how infrequently flights need to be diverted due to engine problems that they are continuously working on it. However, they apologized and, unprompted, attempted to offer some token of restitution. None of us are immune to making mistakes or causing inconveniences. The key is to fess-up and then do something about it. (By the way, it would have been a “big” mistake, not merely an inconvenience, to continue to fly to Chicago with an engine problem, jeopardizing the safety of all those souls on board.) A “classic” mistake was the introduction of New Coke. Don Keough, who was president of the Coca-Cola Company at the time, fessed-up, apologized and gave consumers what they really wanted, “Classic” Coke. A rift with consumers was closed, and healed. All was forgiven (even with the press).
8. Brighten your customers’ lives – Whoa, this is a bit much. How are we going to do that? Well, Coca-Cola finds ways to delight its customers not only with its refreshing beverage but also in its marketing activities. The talking vending machine, the Freestyle Fountain vending machine, the Coca-Cola sharing can in Asia, and fun promotions, are examples of the many ways the brand attempts to create and spread happiness. Coca-Cola sponsors festive sporting events such as the Summer Olympics, the World Cup, local professional teams and even local high school sports, to our enjoyment! Coca-Cola is present where people go to, and can, experience happiness, and contributes to their enjoyment. Even Coca-Cola advertising serves to brighten the spirits of consumers. Just thinking about any one of the Coca-Cola Polar Bear commercial elicits a smile. It doesn’t matter your age; Coca-Cola is at work to help brighten your day with its quintessential beverage and marketing related activities.
9. Avoid doing what you ought not do – There’s a quote about golf that goes something like this: “Golf has too much walking to be a good game, and just enough game to spoil a good walk.” The worse the game then, undoubtedly, the more the walk is spoiled. Marketers need to beware of things that they do to ruin the game, or walk. These are negative actions that diminish the brand experience and, therefore, should be avoided, such as:
- Bombarding customers with messaging
- Haunting customers with mobile messaging
- Falsely posing as friends
- Promising the improbable and/or unachievable (such as “get your life back”)
- Making false and/or misleading claims
- Overcomplicating things for customers (e.g., packaging, promotions, etc.)
- Talking down to customers
- Serving your organization at the expense of your customers
- Using call-in centers that take customers through several automated commands before connecting with a human being
- Passing-off a customer call from one rep to another and needing to repeat the issue
- Not solving the customer problem or adequately addressing the issue
- Wasting the customers time by having them talk with a representative from the company who is not authorized to solve the customer’s problem but merely repeat false apologies
- Suggesting that, perhaps, the customer did not use the product appropriately (when it doesn't work properly or malfunctions)
- Over-engineering the product
- Insulting the customer by suggesting that s/he doesn’t know how to use the product correctly
- Designing the product so it takes an engineer to assemble or use it
- Attempting to trade-up a customer from a disappointing purchase to another item, as opposed to correcting the problem
- Not honoring terms
- Delaying service
- Not providing suitable quality control to ensure product integrity
- Not apologizing for mistakes
- Staffing with poorly trained and/or incompetent service personnel
- Not having product in stock
- Understaffing (which results in problems for the customer such as long lines or wait periods to deal with an issue)
- Not refunding returns
- Issuing store credits versus refunds for returned merchandise
- Deep discounting after your purchase for which you will not be entitled to a refund or return
- Selling shoddy or inferior products, among other things.
The aforementioned can transform an even relatively mindless experience into one that is remembered, most unfavorably.
10. Treat the customer as if s/he is always right – We’re all familiar with the maxim “the customer is always right.” However, you may argue that this is not always true. But, really, who are we to argue one way or the other? It is a slogan that was coined to encourage workers to be attentive to customer satisfaction. And, our goal should not be to make a transaction, particularly at the risk of damaging a relationship, but to create brand loyalty. We have a vested interest in customer satisfaction. If we don’t treat the customer with utmost respect, truly hear their issues and look for ways to satisfy the customer we are surely going to dampen her/his experience and risk losing her/him. And, by the way, it is so much more costly to win a new customer that keep one who is already on board with your brand. So, regardless of whether you hold it to be entirely true, it’s and important maxim to heed if you are going to retain customers and win converts.