Customer Service

How to Screw Up a Good Promotion – Customer Service Gone Wrong

by Travis Heermann  ||   5 Comments

A large supermarket chain near my abode also runs a convenience store-style gas station in front of the supermarket. They run a thoroughly marketed promotion whereby customers receive a discount for gas based on how much money they spend on groceries.

Having just dropped a serious chunk of change on groceries, I received a fuel coupon for a discount of $0.23/gallon. Nice, I thought. That’s almost four bucks off on my next tank of gas.

A couple of days later, I went back to their gas station. The fuel discount was printed out at the bottom of my grocery receipt, but it didn’t say what to do with the coupon. So I pulled up to the super-modern, uber-convenient pumps and saw the sign that read: “Must Pre-Pay or Use Card.” I shrugged and used my card, as I usually do at pumps with a card slot. I figured they would give me the discount inside the convenience store. How on earth else could it done?

Fifteen point eight gallons later, I sauntered inside the store, receipt in hand. At the counter, the conversation went like this:

Me:  I have this discount coupon here. (handing him the receipt)

Clerk: Did you already pay?

Me: Yup. Receipt right here.

Clerk: Then I can’t give you the discount. You have to pay inside.

Me: But the pump said I had to pre-pay or use my card. I used my card.

Clerk: That row of pumps is pre-pay. You should have used this other row.

So I chose not to cause a scene and shuffled off to chew on my frustration. Of course, my coupon expired the next day.

Am I going back? Should I go back?

Let’s analyze the ways this promotion failed this customer.

Great marketing does not equal great execution. You have to do what you say you’ll do. And you have to do it without throwing up roadblocks. A benefit behind roadblocks is not a benefit at all.

If the customer thinks he’s going to get a benefit, and then finds it’s walled up behind fine print, or seemingly arbitrary rules, he is going to go away and not look back.

I don’t expect that my personal boycott of this chain matters to them, and I’m not that bitter, but how many other customers are going to walk away, dissatisfied? Maybe readers will think me unreasonable, but how much inconvenience are customers willing to put up with?

What is the lesson here for all marketers?

Do you invite clients to check out or check in?

by Mistina Picciano  ||   No Comments

My husband and I are vacationing in Charleston, S.C., next month. We’re renting a charming house across the street from Folly Beach, which looks perfect: a good-sized kitchen for culinary experiments, easy access to the beach, close proximity to historic downtown Charleston.

Yesterday the homeowner emailed instructions on picking up the key. I perked up when the message came through my iPhone, reminding me of the upcoming break. And that cheery feeling fizzled as soon as I read the attached document. (more…)

A Cold Splash of Reality

by Mistina Picciano  ||   No Comments

We arrived at my aunt’s house near Taichung shortly after midnight last Wednesday – roughly 28 hours after a car service picked up my mother and me in Midtown Manhattan. I slept very little on either of our two flights and wanted nothing more than to crawl into bed.

Mom pointed me to the bathroom to wash up and brush my teeth. Along with my toiletries, I grabbed nightclothes. My aunt saw this and went into the bathroom to start a bath.

A warning bell went off.

Yes, I was a foreigner, but I was still a healthy, active adult. Why would bathing require assistance?

When in Rome…

I looked into the bathroom and saw a huge plastic pail in the small bathtub. My exhausted brain was putting two and two together and coming up with seven.

My mother pointed out a pink plastic scoop. “You use that to pour the water over you, remember?”

No, I definitely did not remember that from my trip in 2006. The situation was producing flashbacks of my grandmother bathing me in a steel washtub with a water hose during a visit when I was four.

The bath itself was pretty miserable. I was freezing, tired, cranky… and grateful to have the opportunity to experience my mother’s culture, enjoying the hospitality of family.

It also made me realize how many things we take for granted.

Routine reality checks

Take relationships, for instance. Once we’re out of the honeymoon stage, it’s very easy to take those closest to us for granted.

As business owners and sales people focus on developing new client relationships, we need to maintain the ones we have.

We can’t risk assuming that everything is going well. Instead, we have to reach out and make sure that clients are getting everything they expect – and then some – by asking.

One of two things will happen:

  • Clients will either tell us that they love us – and why.
  • Or they’ll give us an earful of where we’re falling short.

Either way, it’s a win-win situation.

In the latter case, inviting criticism can have the same effect as a cold bath when we’re craving a hot shower. But this is exactly the kind of feedback we need to make our product or service better. It could even rescue a troubled relationship.

And if things are going well? We need to take notes and highlight this – the real value we bring – in our marketing copy.

Often, what we think matters to clients differs from the things they really care about.

But we’ll never know if we don’t ask.

What might you be taking for granted in your business? Or how have you freed yourself from this complacent mindset?

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