Lately, I had a chance to explore several websites.  All were very promising.  All have a nice layout, good content and easy to navigate.  However, when it comes to the actual service, only two out of four delivered as promised in the website.

Oftentimes, we are so driven into pushing our brand, product or service to the consumer that we fail to   follow-through if the company’s inputs match customer expectations.   Sales figures might be up now, but once a competitor with better services steps in, it can trigger an exodus of your usual customers.

Tough markets, stiff competition and lower price margins are some of the effects of globalization brought about by today’s technology.  Consumers became smarter.  Many are deciding to buy online to get more value for their money.   Those who prefer to buy in stores can now compare prices online, read product reviews  or check forums for any complaints or compliments about the product or service before purchasing.

Thus, marketing should be transparent.  If you write something in your website about what your company does, make sure that your employees are informed and trained to deliver the service.

For instance,  I’ve come across this company who differentiates themselves from other companies because of their outstanding service to their clients.  If they said they will call, then expect a call from them.  Did the company meet my expectation?  Unfortunately, the company’s actual service is a far cry from how they described their service in their website.  They must’ve hired a good set of writers and web designers to produce their company’s website, but failed to train their own staff about their service commitment.

Meanwhile, I was pleasantly surprised with one Telco’s customer service.  I was paying my bill online when a live chat screen came up to check if I needed help.  I’ve also just printed my past bills, so I can present them to the Telco’s agent in our local shopping centre.  I’ve transferred to a new mobile service provider and part of the deal was a 3 months free service which should’ve been credited on my 3rd bill.  I followed up the Telco agent about it and showed to him the bills I paid as reflected in the mobile app of my Telco provider.  However, he still wanted me to print the online bill and go back there.  I was just about to do that but the Telco’s customer service representative in the live chat facility saved me the trip, the time and effort in following up my credit.   He said he will call me within two hours.  He will verify things with their agent and organize the refund.  True enough, he called within that time frame, sent me an SMS confirmation of the refund and said that he will file a complaint on my behalf for their agent’s non-delivery of the promised credit.   I was actually very impressed with that Telco’s customer service because it went beyond my customer expectations.  They resolved the issues created by their agent faster than I can find time to go to their agent’s shop to sort things out for the second time.

However, in another live chat facility in one of my company’s service providers; I couldn’t compliment the same service.  The live chat became a point of contact for sales than an after sales service.  I was planning to purchase more products from their company but decided to go for another service provider who can give a better customer support, even if the price is a bit more expensive.

Another notable example are some of the customer’s frustrations about group buying websites as discussed in this article from the Sydney Morning Herald’s online edition “Too little, too late: group buying site feels the wrath“.  The consumers thought that they have just snapped a deal by paying for a service at a discounted rate.  However, some companies cannot provide the service on time or are offering sub-standard standard service to match the discounted purchase price.  In the end, instead of achieving the marketing goal of attracting more customers, the companies involved are attracting negative publicity and losing the opportunity of having repeat customers from the group buying site’s marketing promotion.

Overall, it is essential that your company’s inputs match your customers’ expectations.  Deliver what you promise. Always strive to exceed customer expectations.  Think like a consumer.  In today’s business climate, the real winners are those who can drive long-term sales through marketing transparency and customer service commitment.

If your consumers are going to talk about your company make it a marketing effort that there are more compliments than complaints, listen to your consumers and rectify unresolved issues as soon as possible.  Remember, in the advent of social media, bad publicity is worse than no publicity at all.




Photo: Flickr Alan Cleaver