It’s my job to work with our team as we consistently strive to put the human back into our marketing efforts. What that means is we’re seeking to create meaningful conversations and interactions by understanding the context of a client's (or potential client's) placement within the buyer’s journey. Basically, we’re listening for clues and thoughtfully responding in kind—just as you would in a normal conversation with a friend.
So, when the opposite of this happens in my personal life as a consumer, it really stands out to me. And in the following instance you’ll see how.
Signals to Gain Customer Insights
I’m not a complicated customer. I’m a shopper who likes to go into a store with what I’m looking for already in mind. It’s nice to be acknowledged once by a sales associate and asked, “can I help you find anything?” Typically, I’ll answer, “no thanks, just browsing,” because I just want to make a beeline to the product, buy it and get out of the store. The same goes for my online purchases, though, I may take a little more time to research and browse other options. Either way. I’m fine on my own. Thanks.
Of course, I’m not totally a lone wolf. I can appreciate good customer service, obviously if I need to follow-up with any issues such as damaged or broken items and returns. But again, I’m most often happiest left to my own devices as a consumer.
Recently, I was shopping for a piece of audio equipment. I knew specifically what I wanted to add to my existing set-up. I only needed the place to buy it. A quick Google search brought up a number of options and after some quick research I chose what I felt was the best retailer based upon their pricing and online reviews. The purchase was relatively quick and easy, though I was a little uneasy about setting up a Google payment (their preferred method) and providing some of my personal information beyond what I felt was necessary. Yeah, you can have my mailing address to ship me my purchase, but why do you need my phone number?
Still, I was happy with the price and went ahead with the purchase. I quickly received a follow-up “thank you” email as well as a notification of another impeding notification for its eventual shipping. Ok, that’s fine customer service. Thanks. I appreciate that information. A day or so later, I received the notice my item had been shipped. Cool. Sounds good. Thanks again.
Only a breezy 3-5 business days later, I came home from work to find the package containing my piece of audio equipment on my doorstep. Great! I brought the package inside, opened it up and made sure everything looked good and set it up. Yep. All good.
I had legitimately warm, fuzzy thoughts about the company. “Dear, retailer: our transaction is done. Nice work. This customer is happy. That was well-priced, shipped quickly and works great. If I ever need to, I’ll get in touch and order from you again! Bye, bye now.”
Then, it all changed.
Are You Listening? This Is How to Lose a Customer
The next day, in my already overcrowded inbox I noticed an email from the audio retailer. I wasn’t too upset, after all, it’s not out of the ordinary to receive a follow-up email to confirm delivery, thank you for your order or a customer service poll—even a surly consumer like me knows that. I rolled my eyes at their efficiency as I happily deleted the email from my inbox.
Later the same day another email snuck its way into my inbox. “Hey! Here’s some other stuff, completely unrelated to the product you bought that we’re selling right now! Thought you may want to see it!” My left eye twitched, just a bit. And with a heavy frustrated sigh, I deleted the email.
The next day, I received a phone call from a number I didn’t recognize. I let it go to voicemail, then checked it. “Hi! This is Joe from that audio company! Just wanted to see how that product is working out for you!” Curse word uttered. Message deleted.
Over the following days. More emails. More phone calls and text messages. All featured a combo of overly fawning customer service inquiries and unwanted offers. I quickly found the “Unsubscribe” button in an email and vindictively put an end to their correspondence. Or so I thought. I received several last desperate emails following this. And another text. “Hey! We’ll update your email preferences. By the way, how’s that product working out for you!?”
"Forget this company!" I shouted in frustration. Only I didn't say "forget."
Don't Forget, Your Customers Are Human—Treat Them As Such
Picture this situation in a brick-and-mortar store. If a salesperson asked me to fill out a customer survey or review my product and I said no or ignored them and walked away, the might ask one more time. But they'd probably leave me alone to do my thing. Retailers need to do the same thing digitally. This company ignored my digital clues that I wanted to be left alone and badgered me to the point of unsubscribing. And initially didn't even honor the unsubscribe!
Ultimately, I vowed never to buy from them again if this was the type of experience they provided. Even though the price of their product was good, and I appreciated the initial customer service, they lost a customer for good. This is the peril that brands face when they don’t listen to the conversation a customer is having with them. They're not treating the customer humanly.