Keeping Loyal Customers Loyal

It’s always been a mystery to me that retailers will actually spend money to make their customers angry. For example, there was once a regional discount store chain, based here in St. Louis, who had a reputation for never having advertised items in stock.  Notice I said “was”.  Their failure to back up their ads with adequate inventory was one of the reasons that we speak of them in the past tense.

If your business plan includes regularly ticking off your customers, there are cheaper ways of doing it than running full color newspaper inserts and buying expensive TV time.  If Venture had just figured out a way to make their customers mad without spending so much money on ads, they might still be with us today.

I thought of this dearly departed discount chain the other day when I tried to buy a book at Borders.  [Note that shopping at Borders goes against my crusade to support local merchants.  Unfortunately, Borders and Barnes and Noble have effectively eliminated the local competition here.  There are a few specialty book stores, but to buy the book I was looking for, the chains, or Amazon, seem to be my only choices.  Besides, I’m trying to make a point here about customer service.  As your intrepid reporter, I have to shop the competition occasionally to find out what a lousy job they’re really doing.  mb] I had received an email coupon  for 40% off any single item and there’s a book I’ve been wanting to read so it seemed reasonable to take advantage of the savings.

The only problem is that none of the local Borders stores has the book in stock.  Being a patient man, I thought “OK, I’ll order the book.  I’ll still get the discount and I’m kind of busy right now anyway, so I don’t mind waiting.”

WRONG!!!

It seems that the coupon had to be used within 48 hours and the book wouldn’t be in for at least ten days.  I couldn’t use it.  Then things got interesting.  The girl behind the counter suggested that I order the book from Borders.com.  But wait, the coupon is only good for in-store purchases.  Besides,  Borders.com didn’t have the book either.

So here’s what the helpful bookista suggested I do.  (1) “Wait a couple of weeks.  By the time the book comes in there will probably be another coupon.”  or (2) “Have you tried Sam’s or Costco?”

Like I said, here’s a national chain.  They seem to be reasonably successful.  They’ve eliminated most of their competitors, at least in this market.  Yet they have this bone-headed policy about handling coupons.  They say I”m a “preferred customer”.  That’s why I got the coupon in the first place.  Yet, when I tried to use it, I’m told I can’t.  Not because of anything I did wrong, but because they failed to have the book in stock.  [Another note.  This isn’t some fringe book that nobody’s buying.  In fact, as I write this the book is number 1 on Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.com.]

Here’s the thing.  If you successfully manage to get me into your place of business, either by a traditional ad, by email marketing, through social media, or by word of mouth, do everything in your power to satisfy me, to sell me, and to keep me coming back.  Whatever you do, don’t penalize me for your mistake.  Not only should Borders have ordered the book and honored the discount, they should have offered me something extra for my trouble.

“Gee, Mr. Customer, we’re sorry you have to wait.  We’ll honor your coupon and for your trouble, how about having a cup of coffee on us?”  makes a heck of a lot more sense than “Sorry we can’t help you.  Why don’t you try the warehouse club?  Maybe, while you’re there, you might find some other books that you would have bought from us.”

In this economy can any of us afford to alienate even one loyal customer?  I don’t think so.

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2 Responses

  1. […] Succession of Insights added an interesting post today on Keeping Loyal Customers LoyalHere’s a small readingIt seems that the coupon had to be used within 48 hours and the book … Maybe, while you’re there, you might find some other books that you […]

  2. […] here to read the rest: Keeping Loyal Customers Loyal « Mining the Store Tags: book, busy-right, catalinas, cell-phones, first-trip, least-ten, nabil-el-wakad, newest, […]

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