From my (privileged) position at the company I work for I can see daily efforts to engage clients via complex marketing techniques, and a sometimes obsessive attention to client and prospect engagement, via social and off-line mechanisms.
So I pay a lot of attention to my role as a customer – and the way B2C companies handle my engagement whenever I am involved with a buying interaction. Let me go with 2 very recent examples.
Case 1. Switching Bank Account.
I currently have an account with Lloyds Bank plc. At least 99% of my interactions with a bank go via web and smartphone. I need a bank with a solid on-line banking and mobile strategy. I need a bank with attractive apps (real apps, not html applications) for iPhone and iPad. Lloyd is not such a bank.
So I decided to switch. After analysing sites, comments, analysis, demos, I went with my personal list: 1) Barclays 2) Santanter 3) Well, there is no three, unfortunately, in the UK…
So visited a Barclays branch near to where I live. I was told to contact the customer care for an appointment. Called. I was told to wait 24 hours. They were supposed to call me back. They didn’t. Contacted Barclays customer service, again. No answers. I decided to go digital and I contacted the bank via twitter. After 3 days, I got an appointment: March the 24th. Which is 15 days far away. They have to be damn busy at Barclays. The paradox: I am trying to become a customer. I am trying to switch from competition. My request was neglected multiple times. Today, I am no longer sure that Barclays will be my new bank.
Lesson 1: Barclays’ twitter support works reasonably better than (phone) customer care or (F2F) branch support.
Lesson 2: Barclays does not really care about clients switching from other banks. I assume main client source is another, considering the poor attention they have put on my case (or it might also be that an expat is less attractive than a permanent UK residents?).
Case 2. The North Face.
Visited yesterday the North Face shop near Covent Garden, to buy clothes for my next trip to Iceland. Trekking shoes, some tech gear, gloves. A couple of sizes were missing. I requested the shop clerks to order all missing pieces: ready to pay in advance, I would come back to collect the order. I was told to order on-line. No way to order items directly from the shop.
Cost of missing items was about £200. Overall order was + £600. The shop missed 1/3 of the current sale: there is no evidence and certainty that I will buy on-line from the NF shop. In fact, I went straight to the outdoor shop across the street.
Lesson 1: here the point is not about clerks kindness: they were indeed very nice and helpful. The question is about clerks and The North Face selling capability and its technique to engage and retain clients who are approaching physical shops and are ready to pay.
As a summary: it’s evident that companies still go with a very naive approach to engage, nurture, retain customers. Product attractiveness is no longer a lever for most of us clients – we’re ready to switch our attention to the competition if the company of our choice will not maintain a live engagement and attraction.