Customers are the most important thing in business. Without them, in their various forms, there is no point in having a business. Most people seem to focus exclusively on customer acquisition and tend to forget that customer satisfaction and retention are just as important to the growth and well being of the business.
I’ve got two examples for you, first is my recent experience with Budget Cars in the UK. My wife and I took a trip to Torquay and rented a car from a couple of very likeable chaps. When the feisty Fiat 500 was delivered I was very eager to get behind the wheels. We went over the necessary car review; I was shown the minor scratches and had a chance to walk around the car. I signed off the sheet, jumped in and headed for the hotel. While driving I did notice that the car had a slight pull to the left but attributed this to nothing major and didn’t phone Budget up to alert them of this. This was a novice mistake it would seem because in retrospect I was reading the rental agreement which stated I should have contacted them. When I dropped the car off 4 days later I again had my inspection which was signed off by the agent and I boarded my train for London. Today, while looking at my credit card statement I noticed that I was charged £100 extra. I promptly called Budget to be told that there was damage to the left front wheel and that I was charged for this. Now, my issue is not that I was charged or the actual employee I spoke with (who was very courteous) but with the way in which the charge was handled. When I returned the car, I did note to the agent that the car was pulling slightly to the left. He said that it was all fine and I was on my way. When they discovered there was a more serious issue, they didn’t contact me to let me know that there was an issue and that I would be charged. This issue existed when I received the car and could have become more apparent by my use of the vehicle. When I called, the policy was cited and there was no negotiation or understanding on this. I could have taken this further and put in a dispute with the company but I know what will happen: Policy will be further cited and it will end there. I will not deal with companies that do not put their customers first. There were issues on both sides but it seems that I was the only one who paid for it. This is not the way to retain customers.
Do not always give in to customers but ensure that you at least have some resolution and proper systems in place to protect both yourself and your customers. They are your real marketing team.
My next example is the MyESS service from American Express. When I got my UK Amex credit card, I was offered a free trial on the MyESS service which is insurance for your personal gadgets. I was constantly contacted by the sales team to ensure that I continued my trial onto the paid plan. Like most people, I forgot about the trial and the plan renewed onto the paid service. I have never added any of my devices to this service. I have now paid 3 months and never used the service. Needless to say, I’ve had no contact from MyESS asking why I’ve not used the service or some instructions on how to add my devices. Isn’t that lovely.
Always interact with your customer base. Figure out why they aren’t using your product or service. If they don’t find your service valuable they’ll just leave and that affects your bottom line.
Understanding that acquiring a customer is only half the battle goes a long way in building a strong and lasting business. Some of the big companies seem to have forgotten this, I hope you don’t.