I got a bottle of Scotch for Christmas.
I was pleased.
Whilst I’m by no means a whisky connoisseur, the last couple of years has seen me beginning to appreciate a nice little glass of a single malt on the occasional evening, and the Scotch – a present from Mrs Greenwood – was right up my street.
But something was missing. A decanter.
We’ve all seen the James Bond movies, we all know that no amber-coloured alcohol can be served in anything other than some sort of crystal decanter, so when my whisky arrived, there was only one thing for it: take to Amazon to order one.
It arrived, thanks to the joys of Prime, a day later, and once I’d got it I hurriedly unpackaged the box and decided to give the decanter a quick wash before putting my Scotch in.
It was a good job I did. Because as soon as the water went in, it went straight back out, thanks to a little hole at the bottom of the decanter.
For a product that’s designed to hold liquid, it wasn’t a good start. But what happened from that point on meant that when I look back, I’ll only have good things to say about the company that sold me the decanter.
A few hours after the discovery, I sent them a quick email letting them know that – unfortunately – the decanter they sent me was of no use.
I’m not sure what I was expecting, but it wasn’t what I got.
As a bit of a veteran of buying stuff online, I’ve become acutely aware of how irritating some online sellers can be. I wasn’t even sure that they’d reply. At the very least, I was expecting to have to send back the useless decanter as proof that it was broken; whilst it wouldn’t have surprised me at all if they’d disputed whether it was even their fault.
That isn’t what happened.
Instead, I got a quick email back from a lovely chap called Joe apologising for the inconvenience and letting me know that he’d arranged for a brand new decanter to be delivered to me. The next morning I got a knock at the door, and my watertight decanter was there.
No fuss, no messing, no trouble. Less than 24 hours later, my problem was sorted. Will I be using them again? For sure I will. (They’re called Panorama Stores on Amazon if you’re interested).
A couple of days later I had a very different experience with another company that showed the massive disparity that exists in terms of how people treat their customers.
I joined a gym. Yeah, I know, in January – the most clichéd time to do it.
But anyway, I was very excited about it. It’s just down the road from me, and Grace was planning to join too – cue opportunity for us to exercise in misery together.
She wasn’t with me when I joined, but the sales guy who signed me up assured me that I could just bring her along next time I was in so she could try out the facilities before she made the decision to join.
And that’s exactly what I tried to do. We had a spare couple of hours, and we thought we’d both go for a swim.
We got to the gym and spoke to the receptionist, only to be told that I could only bring a guest if I gave them 24 hours notice. And, despite a little bit of back and forth, she wasn’t budging.
As I didn’t have 24 hours – we wanted to exercise there and then – we had no choice but to walk away, sans swim.
But it left a bad taste in my mouth. And more to the point, it was a really silly thing to do if that gym is at all interested in recruiting more members, growing their turnover and increasing their profits.
The flat refusal from the girl on reception, born of a ‘computer says no’ attitude means three things:
1) My wife didn’t get a chance to try out their facilities, reducing the chances of her ever handing over any money to them.
2) I didn’t use the facilities either, meaning that someone who IS paying them is automatically less engaged in them and what they do than they would have otherwise been. In other words, I’m less loyal to them as a result of what happened.
3) I’m less happy than I would have been, making me less likely to refer.
What’s ridiculous about that situation is that there really is no sensible reason why they couldn’t have just let us both in to have a swim.
Nothing bad was going to happen. In fact, only good things could have come as a result of it. But because the policies and procedures said one thing, that’s what they stuck to; and in the long run, that sort of attitude is likely to be to their detriment.
By manifesting the ‘if it’s any sort of hassle for us, we’re not going to do it’ attitude, my gym’s showing me that they don’t really care about me, or my experience.
In fact, they’re creating friction between me and my enjoyment of their product.
I’m sure it was ‘hassle’ for Panorama to take the financial hit on the defunct decanter, pay for a replacement AND next day delivery, but what they understand much better than the gym is that ongoing customer loyalty is far more powerful and important than eliminating momentary bother.
They’ve achieved that with me, and I’ll be telling all and sundry about them.
Unfortunately for the gym, I’ll also be telling anyone who’ll listen about them, but for vastly different reasons.
Whatever business we’re in, the better the experience we can provide for our customers, the more likely they are to remain loyal to us; and the more friction we allow to enter a customer’s experience, the less likely we are to be able to retain them.
With that in mind, it’s a worthwhile exercise to regularly think through our entire proposition, consult our trusted customers, clients or patients; identifying any areas that we can improve and any parts of our service that irritate, annoy or frustrate.
Then we can eliminate those parts, improve experience and increase loyalty.
And as we all know, a list of engaged, happy and loyal customers can achieve a whole lot. A customer list is a business’s number one asset; and hopefully this missive on whisky and workouts helps you to see that there are different ways of treating that asset; with vastly difference consequences.