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Loyalty, Customer Service and Missed Opportunities

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By: Richard Pachter |

Posted on May 18, 2018

Loyalty is all about getting and keeping customers. That’s the simplest evocation of our mission. After all, companies spend major chunks of their advertising and marketing budgets on acquisition, but retention seems to take a backseat. We know it’s wrong but there it is. But loyalty can be the remedy.

By Richard Pachter

Once you manage to attract a new customer, smart marketers try to upsell ‘em and if they’re very smart, compel them to return in the near future. That’s Sales 101, right?

Online, the process should be baked into the sales journey, with immediate incentives and cookies that extend things intelligently and in a compelling manner. Establish a relationship with the customer and keep them involved and delighted. You know the drill.

Upselling and loyalty should be a thing for all businesses? Add some extraordinary customer service and you’ve got a winning formula, right?

You’d think so.

During a recent trip to my car dealer for an oil change (on special, natch), I also planned to replace my windshield wipers. I’ve owned the car for two years, some wear was evident and the rainy season would be here soon enough. Though I had an emailed discount coupon from the dealer I balked when my friendly service writer responded with the price after I asked about the cost of the new pair of wipers.

“Too much! I’ll get ‘em myself,” I declared.

So I visited the website of a big national auto parts chain. It almost immediately offered me a timed discount for online ordering and asked me to enter the make, model and year of my vehicle. So far, so good.

I wanted windshield wipers, so I poked around for a few seconds until I was directed to something that fit my vehicle.  But I had questions: What the heck was a water resistant wiper? Isn’t that the point? Had to Google it; no explanation on the site. Well, apparently some wipers exude or excrete a water-resistant liquid as it swishes back and forth. No thank you! I want OG wipers, please, so I found a model that looked good, the price was right and I provided my name, email and credit card, applied the discount, opted for in-store pickup and finished. No extra discount for my next visit was offered either on the site or in the order-confirming email (though the email had a “refer a friend” link at the bottom, which I clicked on and came up 404. No bueno!)

The following morning, I swung by to pick up my wipers. While waiting for one of their people to finish helping other customers, I noticed a paper hanging near the register with instructions and a basic script for dealing with customers on the phone and how to get them to come in to the store for an in-person appearance. Nice!

When my turn came, I gave my name to the friendly fellow, scribbled my signature on the receipt and was handed the wiper package.

“It says ‘easy to install’ but is it?” I wondered aloud. The dude asked if I needed assistance. “Sure!” He emerged from behind the countered, strolled to the entrance. I followed him outside, pointing to my vehicle.

He said, “Which side do you want it on?”

Say what?

“You know you bought one wiper. Did you need two?”

“Huh? Didn’t they come in pairs?” I asked.

“No, so which side did you want it on?”

“Uh, driver side,” I said. “Love my wife but maybe she’ll feel less compelled to offer driving hints if she can’t see,” I shared.

He walked over to the driver side, removed the old wiper and attempted to pop the new one in.

“It’s the one for the passenger side,” he announced, so we trudged back in and I purchased — at full price with no discount — a driver-side wiper, which he expertly installed along with its mate. I thanked him, gave him a couple of bucks for his effort and drove off.

Now, would a shoe store let me buy one shoe? Ok, the auto parts site might’ve allowed for the fact that in some cases, maybe someone buys one wiper. I mean, I never have, but maybe I’m an outlier. Maybe most people buy one wiper at a time. All righty then. But shouldn’t the site ask me if I wanted the other one, and maybe some wiper fluid, a squeegee, a can of car wax, a pair of fuzzy dice, a scented paper Xmas tree, a set of tires, a battery, a quart of oil or SOMETHING?

Loyalty program? Not that either. The generic, follow-up email with offers (none for wipers) came four days later with no personalization. Whoopee!

So devise cool affinity programs, concoct fabulous affiliate promotions, conduct contests, giveaways and advertise celebrity endorsements ad infinitum. But if you don’t take advantage of the opportunities afforded by an actual spending customer during and after the transaction and provide excellent service while it’s happening, what the hell are you really doing?

Richard Pachter is Editor at Large for The Wise Marketer.