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Try Not To Annoy Your Customers

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Customer satisfaction is important for a company to succeed. The happier the customer, the better of chance of improving sales and profitability.

A well known adage in business.

But I will take it a step back in today’s world.

Start by just trying not to intentionally annoy your customers. 

Customers Have Come to Expect Mediocrity

Today, customers put up with a lot of mediocrity. Great customer service seems to be rare. I know that I am always surprised when I get strong service.

If you look around your corner of the world, I bet you can think of many examples of adequate to poor service. And very few examples of great support.

There are many reasons for declining service quality and I shall not recite them today. It would take too long and be too depressing.

But I believe that most weak service or badly made products comes from inattention and apathy. Not so much from intentional actions.

However, occasionally I come across examples of businesses that seem to go out of their way to annoy customers. This really makes me shake my head.

But Avoid Trying to Annoy Clients

Errors are made in business. Staff make mistakes, products have flaws, warranties expire just before the product breaks, etc. And some customers can never be satisfied regardless of the service level. They expect champagne on a beer budget.

That is the way business goes. Things happen. The customer walks away unhappy. But in most cases everyone believes they are doing their tasks.

However, there are always cases where it seems like the company is intentionally trying to upset their potential customers.

This post from a potential subscriber to the Los Angeles Times [4] is a great example of what I mean. Before being able to subscribe to their newspaper, you must:

… agree the Los Angeles Times may call you about marketing, sales or promotional events, and may use an automatic dialer, text message or prerecorded voice to do so.

In exchange for a newspaper you must agree to be harassed by the seller. Sounds like a good marketing strategy to me.

I wrote of a couple of annoying situations myself.

One was very similar to the linked item. My (former) bank’s marketing genius [5] believes it is a great idea to give customer names and telephone numbers to subsidiaries. And then get them to call evenings and weekends for products we do not want? I sincerely hope that he/she is now living under a bridge somewhere. Because that is a business model that does not make customers happy. But I suspect he/she is now with the LA Times.

The other involved a car dealer who did everything possible to discourage a sale [6]. Yes, the auto salesman was useless. I am sure he thinks he is great. An example of an unintentional mistake.

However the real problem for the deal was structural. No car brochures available, the sales manager walking by a few times as we waited and not asking how we were doing, not being able to provide detailed pricing, lying about cost of add-ons, etc. These were intentional (and structural) problems with the dealership. If management cannot get the basics right, that suggests bigger issues than simply screw-ups by individual staff.

You Do Not Need to Be Great, Just Competent

As I wrote in that post, the car dealer that ultimately made the sale was not out of this world. Competent, professional, met my expectations, but not a 5 star performance. Often, simple competence is enough.

Lest you think I am the customer from hell, no. I expect competence and professionalism. If you are charging a premium for upscale products or services, then I factor that in. When I stay at a Ritz Carlton, my expectations are different than when I stay at a Hampton Inn.

If you are in a business, make certain you provide, at minimum, competent products and/or services. Get the basics right before striving for perfection. That really is all most customers want in today’s world.

And avoid implementing measures that alienate and frustrate clients. Customers may accept mediocrity to a great extent. But if it looks like you are intentionally trying to annoy your customers, that will cost you future business.