Editor’s Notes: Orphaned Customers
About a month ago I attended the Direct Marketing Association’s net.marketing Conference & Exhibition. Despite the Jan. 1 enactment of the Can Spam Act, attendees and speakers were very bullish on the potential still waiting to be tapped by online marketing strategies. But several marketers expressed reservations—especially when it came to affiliate programs. Online partnerships, marketers cautioned, require careful partner selection, monitoring and tweaking for success.
But it’s not only sales revenue you have to safeguard; your company reputation is also at stake, as evidenced in the following example of customer abandonment. Target Marketing’s Senior Editor, Brian Howard, was surfing the Web last November when he noticed a promotion from Columbia House for a free $50 Target gift card for joining its DVD club. He agreed to purchase a few DVDs upfront for the price of shipping and handling and made a commitment to buy more at full price in the future. Since it was only Nov. 20, he hoped his gift card would arrive in time for a holiday shopping trip to Target.
By late January 2004, growing weary of waiting for his gift card to arrive, he sent an e-mail to Columbia House’s customer service department. The firm’s reply directed him to its affiliate program partner’s Web site, www.yourgiftcards.com, where he could fill out paperwork to send for his card. The club marketer also gave him this very nice brush off: “… we trust this completes your Columbia House contact.” In other words, “Don’t bother us anymore; this isn’t our problem.” Nice!
After two e-mail exchanges with Yourgiftcards.com, Brian finally obtained a certificate to fill out and return by postal mail to request his gift card … expected to arrive six to eight weeks after receipt of his certificate!
Regardless of whose responsibility it was to handle fulfillment of the gift card, all three companies wound up looking like bad guys when a new customer learned not to trust their promises. And online marketers as a whole suffer if consumers become wary of online offers.