What are your customers worth to your business? The answer should be everything – without them, your business ceases to exist. It’s safe to say that any business leader should respond similarly when asked this question. But the real question is, do their business practices match their rhetoric? In a competitive environment, they must, which is why I am astounded when presented with situations that display the exact opposite.
Take, for example, a recent purchase from Best Buy (News - Alert). It was actually an online purchase, but I planned on picking it up at the store the next morning so I could have the item in hand. All was well; I made the purchase, received confirmation of the order that would be filled in the morning, as it was after hours.
Morning came – no confirmation. Noontime came – no confirmation. Then I received a notice, telling me the item was no longer available. Translation: Either an error in the store’s inventory system or staff had delayed picking the item long enough for someone else to purchase the remaining stock. Either way, there was no item available and a disappointed customer.
So, I searched for a customer service number to call – let me point out that it wasn’t an easy task. There’s no question the self-service options and FAQs can address many situations, but there should always be an easy opportunity to call, just as there should always be an easy way to get from an IVR system to a live agent.
To get to the point, the agent explained to me I could either drive to the next nearest store, or I could have it shipped to me, arriving three days later. Well, I had done some research and knew I could purchase the same product on Amazon for the same cost, and have it arrive at my doorstep in two days, so I politely explained that, and was simply told the store could not match its competitors’ shipping rates.
Let me note that I was also told I could have the item in two days for a $5 charge. So, for a mere five-dollar bill, this retailer, with whom I had been conducting business for years, was willing to risk losing my loyalty. A quick look at their loyalty program will tell you that isn’t a smart business decision.
The question I have to ask, then, is: How much do retailers truly understand the value of loyalty, especially when there are behemoth competitors, like Amazon, offering nearly any product under the sun?
I will acknowledge, we’re in a grey area here, as a brand like Best Buy can’t just start shipping two-day at no cost for every purchase. That means agents should be afforded some latitude in dealing with customers. There are times when $5 is a small price to pay for loyalty, and there is plenty of customer data available that can help determine a course of action. But all the technology in the world can’t replace common sense.
To be clear, the point is not about saving $5. It’s about a failure to execute, followed by an unwillingness to accept responsibility and make low-cost amends. When a vendor has an opportunity to treat customers well, it must understand its actions can have long-term effects. We have become a very fickle society, and loyalty is hard to come by, especially with access to Amazon on multiple devices we all own. So, when there is an opportunity to preserve a customer relationship, brands should be aware of not only the lifetime value of their customers, but also the fact that the cost of satisfaction and retention is going to be less than the revenue loss from attrition or degradation of loyalty – that’s not even factoring in pass-through sentiment, so to speak, from conversations and social sharing with others, which can influence others.
So, where one brand failed, another won. The item was at my doorstep two days later. Thank you Amazon.
Edited by Dominick Sorrentino