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Musings from Mike Atkinson on Internet strategy, usability, and more...

Customer service is your best marketing

One of the reasons I love reading Godin and Peter’s blogs is because they go off on horrific customer service experiences. Most of them just make you shake your head in unbelief.

Well, I must add my voice to the “customer-service-is-your-best-marketing” conversation – two examples:

> Last night I went to the Chargers game. I didn’t have time to eat before I went and tried to find the cheapest place to get some grub. There was a taco stand that actually had pretty reasonable prices.

They had either Tijuana Tacos with beef (for those not in So Cal, these are mini tacos on round, soft corn tortillas) or a large chicken taco on a hard, large corn tortilla.

Due to certain (and unreasonable! ha) diet restrictions, I could only have the minis but with chicken (no beef allowed – sniff).

So I asked the cashier if I could have the TJ tacos but with chicken. She said she didn’t think it would be a problem. She turns around to the food preparers and asks a gal working there.

“Oh no, it has to be beef.”

The cashier and I looked at each other with puzzled disbelief. I replied to the preparer, “How hard is it to just put the chicken instead of beef on the tortillas?”

“We’re not allowed.”

At that moment, my savior – the manager – entered so the girl asked her. Fortunately she said, “Yeah, no problem.”

The cashier turned around and smiled at me. I responded, “Seems a bit uptight, eh?”

The point is that a food service company is just that – service! Serve the customers’ needs. Too many employees aren’t trained that way or given permission to do it, however.

> I have been a longtime Netflix customer. There’s NO better way to get rental movies! And I’ve turned many people on to their service.

Over the summer they went on an advertising blitz, heralding their quick turnaround times. My experience backs that up – I would mail a movie one day and get its replacement the day after next, in two days. That’s great!

Since about mid-summer, however, it’s taking 5-7 days after mailing to get a new one. Pathetic!

As I said in my complaint submission on their site (which, by the way, is not easy to find), I said, “It appears you guys are going for growth without the infrastructure to support it. No better way to kill your company.”

They may be feeling pretty invincible, after Wal-Mart gave up trying to compete with them and handing over their customers to Netflix. But there are other choices.

All this to say…how do you treat your current customers/clients/constituents? The best way to retain is to serve. Empower your employees to do just that!

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