Some organizations seem to have lost sight of the opportunities that promotions, deals, and special offers bring to their business. There seems to be a growing belief that people buying promotional (often lower or reduced cost items), are in fact a lower class of customer, perhaps not worthy of too much attention, and in some cases, not deserving of good customer service. But organizations should beware of delivering second class customer service because customers can and will bite back.
In recent months my wife and I have purchased a couple of hotel deals through two of the well known coupon sites – you know the sort, where you buy a deal, pay in advance and get a discount rate. We were looking for somewhere to go for a short break and the coupon route seemed like a good way of buying accommodation and getting a discount at the same time. We normally book directly with a hotel so this was a new experience for us. The places we chose were good hotels but the coupons meant slightly reduced prices. Seemed like a great idea, but on both occasions we were disappointed; not by the hotel or accommodation, but by the attitude of the staff. I don’t want to bore you with all the details so I’ll only describe one occasion, the other, though quite different, left us similarly unimpressed.
We booked bed and breakfast at a hotel using the coupon site, paid and printed the voucher without any problems. We arrived and it was a nice, modern, new hotel; we congratulated ourselves on our decision and choice. There were other people waiting to check-in so we joined the queue. We were welcomed by a smiling receptionist and handed over our voucher. She carefully scrutinised it before disappearing and returning after a few minutes with a colleague. “Oh, they’ve booked it on a deal”, her colleague said, as though we had presented her with some sort of alien passport. The change in expression on the receptionist’s face spoke volumes. “You didn’t buy the ‘meal deal’ will you be wanting that too? You’ll have to pay full price if you don’t” she said. We declined, partly out of annoyance and partly embarrassment. The queue behind us was now getting very impatient and we left the reception desk feeling several inches shorter than when we’d arrived.
That evening we went to the restaurant for dinner only to be told that we had to eat in the bar, not the restaurant because “we were there on a deal”. By now annoyance and frustration were starting to get the better of us and when we were told that we had to select our meals from a special (limited) menu, I snapped back with “Don’t tell me, let me guess, it’s because we are here on a deal”. Then I remembered we had declined the ‘meal deal’ offer and pointed this out, as we left the hotel in disgust to go and eat elsewhere. Don’t get me wrong, we didn’t object to any of the restrictions imposed by the deal we had bought, it was the way staff were handling the situation that was causing us to protest.
The whole experience made us feel like second class citizens and, perhaps worse still, I think the other guests felt that we were too.
When we checked out next morning we tried to give the staff feedback and explained how the way we had been treated had made us feel. Unfortunately, this only made matters worse; the manager apologized but explained that the cause of the problem was “because we had booked a deal”. Infuriated, when we returned home we described the experience on Trip Advisor, along with a very low rating too; seemed to be the most practical way of getting the message across to the company.
The Missed Opportunity
I worked in the service industry for many years and I was taught that the purpose of promotions, sales, etc, was to bring customers to the business. Once customers, led by your promotions, come to your business, they provide you with two opportunities:
- Firstly, you have the opportunity to sell up the range, sell associated or add-on items, increasing the value and margin from the sale.
- Secondly, every customer who comes to your store, organization, or website, gives you the opportunity to make them a customer for life. By giving them a memorable experience which makes them want to come back, they will provide more revenue for your business through return visits and repeat custom
Clearly, the hotels that we booked with did not preserve our business as an opportunity for either of the above.
The Danger of Second Class Service
In addition to the loss of short and long term revenue, if you do not provide good service to customers responding to promotional incentives, you run another even greater risk. With the growth in popularity of social media and feedback websites it is very easy for a customer to leave negative feedback in a way that can really influence potential customers of your business.
What Can You Do About It?
- As a business/organization, remember why you offer deals and promotions in the first place
- Train your staff in the purpose and value of promotional activity
- Treat every customer the same; aim to make every experience special so that customers will come back again and again
- Educate or re-educate your staff in the life-time value of every customer, to the organization; not just those customers who appear to be spending today
- Help staff to develop short and long-term strategies that make the most out of every customer interaction
- Remember, attitude is everything; reward and recognize staff who care about your customers and treat them with the dignity and respect they deserve
Beware of giving second class customer service. In our technological world, where social networks and feedback websites are both common and popular, the customer will always have the last word.