Customers make your business tick. Customers make your business work. Customers make your business survive and prosper. Customers can make or break your business. So why do so few people actually ask, genuinely wonder what it takes to be a happy customer?
I write this after an experience in New York, but also being party to a meeting where a marketing director said they had found out what their customers really wanted, without actually talking to a single one of them. This I find equally curious and ludicrous. It’s like saying every one is a great driver because you’ve talked to Lewis Hamilton about driving; he’s a brilliant driver and he finds it incredibly easy, so therefore everybody is an excellent driver because it’s that easy.
Gatwick airport is the UK’s second largest airport in the UK after Heathrow. Dealing with over 40 million passengers in one year, so it would stand to reason it maybe difficult to keep everybody happy. That said, we the general public really don’t help ourselves do we?
Before we flew out to NYC, we took the sensible precaution of staying in London overnight so we could get through security and relax before our seven hour flight. One of the main reasons we did this was after an experience going to Luxembourg.
We left our home some 5 hours before we due to fly, only to hit congestion on the motorway add to that some road works near our parking venue turning a 2½hr drive into a little over 4hrs. We were lucky. We got through security, (having already used the APP to check in on-line) and dashed through the airport to our boarding gate. We were hot, bothered, stressed and a little angry at the world, but all was good. I figured we didn’t want to do that again.
So as I sit in the departure lounge at Gatwick I have heard, (and yes I did count them), 38 announcements for passengers that still hadn’t reported for their flights. They were somewhere in the airport but just hadn’t arrived to board the plane. Why would you do that?
There’s only so much Gatwick can do to help you get on your flight at the right time. Towards the end of this hour I saw an irate passenger who hadn’t boarded their plane in time absolutely verbally ripping a worker apart. The best part of the conversation was the now going nowhere passenger, dressed in a suit and holding a D&G man bag, said the announcements should have been louder, because he was listening to his ipod. That’s right sir, they should have been louder as well all the screens showing boarding gates and times should also hop off the wall and parade themselves in front of you so you can see their big neon lettering. There’s only so much they can do.
Our flight was uneventful, but the service was excellent from British Airways and we landed in NYC. This is where our ‘customer journey’ came unstuck and memorable for the wrong reasons.
Now I must state here and now that I FULLY understand the needs, reasons and implications that border security must happen in any country. Some do it better than others. I also understand that not everything runs smoothly from time to time. What I don’t understand are the people and businesses who don’t ‘get’ that by treating customers and clients, or in this case passengers in a respectable way, things would be better for both parties.
So welcome to America. New York. John F Kennedy Airport. Immigration. Nearly 30c outside. Except we couldn’t see outside. We were in a long corridor. With no air conditioning. After a 7hr flight. No signage saying anything. (Might have at least expected to see ‘Welcome to America!’ or something along those lines.) We did however have a grumpy looking lady shouting at us that if we aren’t American citizens, you should move over to the right. No signage. Nothing. Just a blank, hot corridor.
I felt a little let down if I’m honest. The PR department of America do really good job of telling everyone worldwide how good they are at everything. They choose to leave out the less positive bits, like the welcome you receive when you get there. So after 1½hrs of slowly edging down the corridor, waiting in queues with no air conditioning, asked some fairly pointless questions, but having my picture taken along with my fingerprints, my American experience begins. But that 90- minutes has soured it before it began. So that got me thinking about the customer journey.
At how many points can your prospective clients get in touch with you? Is it as easy as you think? I know a company who offer email marketing as a service but nowhere on their website is an email address or contact form so that they can ‘display’ their brilliant system. Not a great start.
Are things easy to find? We all have complaints and for some reason companies tend to ‘hide’ their complaints procedures and access to people to get it resolved. There is a major communications business in the UK that when you arrive at their website, you can’t find the contact details for customer complaints. There are loads of connections to sales and products, but none to someone who can sort something out. That’s almost backward thinking. Why? Well it’s cost you and your business ‘X’ amount to attract them and get them to become your customer already. So why make their journey to complain harder and more difficult, thus increasing the risk of them no longer being your customer? You would have to spend ‘X’ all over again to get that new customer.
Can you seamlessly do things online, in person or over the phone and still receive the same great product or service? We live in era of convenience. People want to do business at the time they want to do business. They’re not quite gone but the days of 9-5 are slightly limited. So with things like booking, buying, click and collect, etc, is it simple to do? Is it as polite as having a human being infant of you? Just because it’s online doesn’t mean it has to be ‘faceless’.
And finally where can your customers and clients connect with you? The customer journey can start in so many places. I’m an advocate for people being able to ‘touch’ companies wherever they want to. There are far too many ‘media specialists’ that tell companies they need to concentrate on just their website marketing; or just Facebook advertising; or just email campaigns. The smart business owner would try to understand his or her audience first and work out ‘where they consume their media’ rather than concentrating on one form of it or going to the other end of the scale and scatter gunning your marketing everywhere and hoping some of it sticks. Businesses of every size should be aware that how customers want to connect with businesses is changing. The ones that change with the return on investment whilst having an eye on changing patterns in customer behaviour will be the winners.
So not unlike an actual journey to the United States, customers expectations can be crushed at any moment if part of their journey isn’t delivered as expected. But unlike being stuck in immigration for an hour and a half, customers can always change their minds and leave their journey at any time.
Until next time,
Marc is running a workshop on Monday July 11th on Brilliant Marketing. We’ll be looking at the role of positive psychology in marketing; the unfair advantage small businesses have over their larger competitors; the customer journey and what it takes to build a brand. Click HERE for more information.