Dealing With Customer Misery - Part 2
In my business, there's an old story of the general agency designer who was told that in a direct marketing space ad it's a good idea to highlight the coupon, because the ordering mechanism is a key element.
So the designer got the bright idea to make the coupon black with white type.
The ad ran nationally and not a single response was received.
Apparently no reader had a white pen.
It's amazing to me how many marketers do not put themselves inside the head of the prospect or customer and literally become the person being wooed, so that they can evaluate the wooing experience they have created.
It's true in promotion; it's true in fulfillment.
"The sale begins," wrote freelancer Bill Christensen, "when the customer says, 'yes.'"
That means, for example, the first shipment is the one chance for the marketer to prove that all the promises made in the promotion are true.
"You don't get a second chance to make a first impression," goes the old saw.
- Is the welcome letter warm and enthusiastic?
- Is the welcome letter the first element that the customer sees?
- Are the instructions so clear that an idiot can understand them?
In other words, is the customer being re-sold—and made to feel really good about having placed the order?
I was once hired to consult for a day with a book club. I asked that they send me recent ads and direct mail packages—winners and losers—along with the results. In addition, I suggested that we go through the fulfillment package received by the new member.
When I arrived in their offices, I was shown an unopened fulfillment box with premium books and promotional material. I was told that it was not easy to get. No one in the company had ever seen one—not the book club director, not the head of marketing, not the vice president of sales.
Over the years, the club director kept a list of the various materials that were to accompany the premium books. The shipping department was periodically told to omit this and insert that. But nobody ever checked to see how the box was packed. What did the new member see first? How were the pieces folded?
When the carton was opened, the first thing we saw was a flier offering remaindered books at deep discounts. Next came the M-G-M—member-get-a-member effort ("Tell a friend how much you love this book club and persuade him to join in return for free introductory free books for the friend and a thank-you gift for yourself.")
The next element was the two-page welcome letter, but page 2 with the club director's signature was face up. And the final piece was the instruction manual describing how the club worked—the nitty-gritty of the negative option scheme, the mechanics of returning unwanted books and the bonus program of free books for every book the member bought.
The shipping department had faithfully executed its instructions by inserting the right elements, but for the new member it was just plain confusing. Sloppy marketing.
Museum Customer Relationship Misery
In Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum are six iconic paintings—four by Vermeer and two Rembrandts that I had waited all my life to see—plus a slew of other stunners by Frans Hals, Jan Steen and Pieter de Hooch.
When we were there in April, vast areas of the Rijksmuseum were closed off for renovations. As a result, crowds of visitors were funneled into relatively few rooms. We bought tickets—14 euros plus another 5 euros for the audio guides for a total of US$25 each—and went inside. With lunch it was a $100 afternoon.
I had my little digital camera with me, but assumed photography was not allowed. Silly moi! In front of every exhibit, clusters of tourists had their noses pressed against the bright little rectangles of light emanating from their cameras, jostling for position and happily clicking away. Unlike the old days of point-and-shoot film technology, digital mavens study the picture they just took, frequently delete it and snap it again ... and again.
Incidentally, few of the picture-takers stopped to have a look at the paintings they had just photographed.
This is not only interruptive to the viewing experience, but just plain stupid on the part of museum management. Picture-taking cuts into the sales of postcards, books, reproductions, posters, note cards and tea towels at the museum store—a major source of revenue.
For the record, I never photograph paintings in museums. Not only is it rude to others, but also artworks are the intellectual property of these institutions and I have no right to walk out with any of it.
I do, however, occasionally take photographs of people behaving like jerks in museums.
Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675) produced only 37 paintings in his lifetime, and each is breathtaking for its color, composition, draftsmanship, technique and the implied story it tells. Unlike Rembrandt's massive 12' x 14' "Night Watch," Vermeers are small and intimate. They are among the most prized objects in any collection.
The room where three Vermeers were aligned on one wall was mobbed with picture-takers, while guides shouted in myriad languages and gestured—their hands covering the paintings—as they delivered 20-minute lectures to their gaggles of camera-toting followers.
Had I been a member of one of those tour groups, I would have cringed with embarrassment. (Click on the first image in the media player at right to see what I am talking about.)
Viking River Cruises—a Class Act
On our Viking river cruise down the Rhine from Basel to Amsterdam, most shore excursions were included in the price. In our cabin was a pair of small portable rechargeable receivers with earpieces that we carried with us on land tours. Our guide had a microphone and could talk in a quiet conversational tone.
For example, in the cavernous Cologne Cathedral, we could hear the commentary with great clarity without disturbing other visitors who were there to pray or wonder at the overpoweringly magnificent building that took six centuries to complete, was the world's tallest structure for four years (1880-1884) and came within a whisker of being demolished by allied bombs in World War II.
If I were a museum director, I would periodically walk my exhibition rooms to check on the viewing experience and customer satisfaction. Had I seen the mayhem in the Rijksmuseum, I would immediately outlaw cameras, instruct the guards to keep tour guides from covering the paintings with their arm gestures, to speak more quietly and deliver their commentary in the back of the room. Thereafter they could suggest that the listeners move forward to experience the picture.
But Rijksmuseum management had my fifty bucks and probably figured I would never be back, so screw me.
An Amusing Personal Digression
Several years ago, we were in Milan and I had ordered timed tickets to see one of the most famous paintings in the world, Leonardo's "Last Supper," which recently was restored and is simply spectacular. Because Milan is one of Italy's most polluted cities, only 25 people are allowed into the sealed clean air rooms for 15 minutes at a time.
On the walls and in printed handouts were signs that stated POSITIVELY NO PHOTOGRAPHY!
Sitting down on the wooden bench in front of us, an American woman immediately pulled out a camera and aimed it at the treasure on the wall in front of us.
As Peggy tells it, "My inner Gestapo surfaced." She touched the woman on the shoulder and pointed to the signs that said no photographs.
The woman made a face and reluctantly put the camera back in her purse.
Whereupon she turned to her husband. "What are we supposed to do?" she asked huffily. "Just sit here and look at it?"
Takeaways to Consider
- Do your customers love doing business with you?
- It's amazing to me how many marketers do not put themselves inside the head of the prospect or customer and literally become the person being wooed, so that they can evaluate the wooing experience they have created.
- "The sale begins when the customer says, 'yes.' "
—Bill Christensen, Freelancer
- In other words, is the customer being re-sold—made to feel really good about having placed the order?
- The first shipment is the one chance for the marketer to prove that all the promises made in the promotion are true.
- "You don't get a second chance to make a first impression."
- When direct marketing professionals send out a mailing or a product, they know that precise instructions must be given to the lettershop or shipper on how everything is folded and inserted and a sample finished envelope or package is always included.
- It is imperative to see first hand what the customer opens, so that it will have the maximum positive effect.
- In Amsterdam the art is wondrous. The Rijksmuseum sucks.