Loyalty programs are under a microscope these days. Customer service is what makes one company successful and others distressed. We all see the changes in how we are treated. Calls are outsourced to Asia. Staff is reduced. Hours of operation cut. Customers return policies don’t encourage customers to return. I am sure you, my reader, all have similar experiences. I am not alone.
Today declare your Independence. Raise your voice. It’s time to stop accepting it and do something about it.
Airlines who value frequent flyers now charge $150 to put miles back into your account if you need to change your destination or cancel your flight.
ISP and wireless providers are always included in ‘worst’ customer service lists.
Jewel grocery chain has just terminated their ‘loyalty’ programs because the rewards were not beneficial. Anyone, with or without a card, could get the same discounts. And the points added up slowly due to the smaller margins and sales for groceries when compared to airline or hotel stays. While they did nothing wrong, they did nothing right. They did not create loyalty nor offer benefits to incentivize shoppers to purchase in their stores. Their loyalty card dried up along with its value. Jewel like so other companies realized that the problem is that each individual customer isn’t all that valuable so they could not give compelling rewards
Car rental companies charge a fee plus the cost of the gasoline to refill the tank often resulting in almost double the ‘gasoline’ charge alone. Airlines continually find ways to extract more fees for services that were historically included. In any tight industry with tight competition and thin margins loyalty programs are tough to sustain. However for high margin companies loyalty programs can be the competitive differentiation between products that are deemed similar. That kind of interaction presents potential ‘loyalty’ that encourages repeat purchases and buying patterns that deliver what I call ‘customer insistence.’ Here’s how two companies dealt with an unavoidable change in my travel plans.
This week I had to change a flight and hotel reservations.
Hyatt gets it.
American charged me a fee, took over 30 minutes to complete the process and never once asked if I wanted to rebook the flight. They charged me $175 to put the miles back into the account, almost the value of the unused ticket.The first step toward getting somewhere is to decide the advantage of a relaxing vacation against the stress of booking it, going through the TSA lines, and subjecting ourselves to crowded flights, no meal service, and ‘bus like’ passengers. Only you can determine the value of the product or service and how much ‘customer service’ you will need after the purchase. Is it easy to return? Is there a dedicated, live associate you can talk you? Do they maintain the same office hours for customer service as the sales department? Did you check out their Better Business Bureau rating? Check the internet for comments? Did YOU do your homework?
CITI Mortgage, AT&T, US Post Office Comcast, and so many others have forgotten that their customers have choices. While their products may be well thought out the consumer experience leaves room for vast improvement. We have choices. We have decisions. Exercise your rights and if you are mad, tell them. Blog. Post on Social media. Tell the world and maybe, just maybe we can stop this downward spiral of poor service and higher prices. After the first six month of 2013 here’s my list of the worst service providers I have voiced my disdain at the way I have been treated as a consumer. I encourage you to do the same. Think about the companies that put you hold, don’t show up for appointments, have policies that discourage future transactions and do business we companies that really want your loyalty…and will earn it every day. They are out there. It’s just taking more time to find them.
My top 10 Worst Company Customer Service Experiences are as follows…
8-AT&T Business-They are closed on weekends because no one does business on the weekends?
6-Sears’ and K-Mart- Their coupons are highly restrictive, its rewards program limited and its delivery service poor. They continue to disappoint their customers. For me they are tied with Walmart who has been the lowest rated department or discount store in the nation every year between 2007 through 2012. Worse, it has been the lowest rated supermarket every year since 2005. How can these companies be so big and still fail to understand that it’s not always about price that determine customer loyalty?
5-Bank of America-Tried to charge extra fees for maintaining an account. I closed my account.
4-Delta-Poor service, mounting fees, and almost no ‘passenger’ service. I now refuse to fly on Delta. I would rather walk.
3-United Airlines-They still don’t ‘fly united’ nor are they the ‘friendly skies.’
2-US Post Office-No wonder they lose money. There is an attitude of ‘I don’t care,’ don’t deliver, and don’t have the ability to solve problems. If you purchase registered, certified, or insured make certain the post office scans it …don’t drop it off.
Dozens of residents in my condo have notified the Chicago Post Office of the concerns that we share. Mail is often returned “Resident Unknown” or “Mail Not Deliverable” for residents that have lived in our high rise for dozens of years. I personally don’t think it can be fixed without a complete make over. Perhaps it’s time for private enterprise to take it over?
#1 Worst Customer Service Provider
They could not even provide the accurate payoff amount, which caused the closing to be delayed by two weeks.
After Chicago Title sent them the requested payoff amount they came back and said it was short $1420, which they could not detail, explain, or justify.
The closing manager at Chicago Title said that in 35+ years of closings she had never seen fees added to a payoff after the payoff letter was issued. Further, when we both were on the phone she could not obtain any explanation except threats that the wire transfer would be returned if the addition fees were not paid.
I have issued a formal complaint to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. http://www.consumerfinance.gov/ and will do what I can to bring these practices to the attention of local. state and Federal regulators.
Their fees can’t be justified or explained. The Home Owner Support Team is inept.If you or anyone else you know has had similar issues with CITI Mortgage, drop me a note.
Now how do we benefit from learning what not to do? There are still wonderful examples of great customer service. Apple Stores, Nordstrom, Zappos, Keen Sandals, LLBean, Ritz Carlton, Marriott, which all create frictionless experiences.
Analyze your business as well as your life in terms of your environment.
Are the things around you helping you toward your success -or are they holding you back?
Ask…What If? What’s Next? Why Not? I have said it before and remind you to ask these questions.
Your world today is a living expression of how you are using and have used your mind. Your business policies is how you retain your customers. The Wall Street Journal says it costs 5-10x more to get a new customer than to retain an existing one. What are you doing to retain your best customers? It’s not a simple solution like creating a loyalty program.
Loyalty programs only work if YOU are loyal to the customer. When there is a charge for putting miles back into an account, restocking fees for brand new, never opened items, penalties for ‘not using’ your account, then perhaps it’s time to rethink how you think. Praise when they are right. Think of it as bringing them back by saying I really care about you. It’s about D-A-T-I-N-G Your Customer.
- Dazzle Customers with service that keeps them loyal.
- Anticipate their needs.
- Treat each customer uniquely.
- Innovate to solve problems better.
- Nurture your employees and they’ll take care of your customers.
- Guarantee that you have customers to service.
Customer loyalty is something you can change at any time. You should not have to go great distances to find someone that will help. Ritz Carlton as an example says that the person that received the complaint should provide the solution.
Customer service should be the most natural part of any business. It is how you build relationships.
You create a product or service that people want … and you do your best to keep them happy so that they become lifetime customers. Whole Foods has loyal customers on the high end of grocery prices and Wal-Mart enjoys loyalty on the low end but neither of them make extensive use of loyalty cards.
Customers now have a voice. Social media has given each of us a way to express our concerns, offer praise, or provide assistance.
Great service starts at the top. Companies with great service have chief executives who make it their mission. They’re not afraid to spend money, hire experts and structure the corporation around the goal of sterling service.
Service is seen as a process and continual challenge. Companies with outstanding customer service don’t accept praise for a job well done because they are continually trying to make it better.
People want to work at these companies. Companies that create great customer service are often also known for providing higher pay and benefits. They empower their employees to make decisions, then routinely stand behind those decisions.
Don’t remain a captive to your environment. Don’t say, “If I could, I would”, say, “If I can, I will”. We are all a product of our environment. So choose an environment that will best develop you toward your goals. Products and services are the same.
Value is what drives everything. You make the choice. Do it wisely. As they said in the movie Network: I am mad as hell and I am not going to take it any more!
Send me a comment. If published I will send you a free copy of DATING Your Customer Book.