The Customer is NOT Always Right, But…

There’s an old saying in the marketing world that suggests that “the customer is always right”. Since no-one can be right about everything, this saying is clearly fallacious.

In fact, as a general rule, companies that produce products and service have probably invested a great deal into understanding their market. Market research, feedback from a wide variety of customers and research and design from experts are powerful tools. Chances are that a company is more likely to be right than any individual customer.

Although I believe that a company is more likely to be “right” than an individual customer, I strongly believe that there is rarely ever any reason for a marketer, sales person or other company representative to tell the customer that they’re wrong!

A very popular Twitter client for the iPhone has recently been upgraded to quite wide acclaim. I was a user of an earlier version of this application, and only crossed to something else due to a couple of features that more closely met my needs. I was interested in the upgraded product, and so had a look at the Twitter stream about it.

As expected, there were many happy users, but there were also quite a number who expressed a dislike for the way the new version handles Retweets. In defence of the developer, the new version handles retweets the way that Twitter itself has implemented the function.

However, many users of Twitter (and of this Twitter client) are not happy as the new function does not allow them to add comments to their retweets. Historically, retweeting was not something introduced by Twitter or any individual developer, but was developed by a community groundswell. In this case, crowd-sourcing led to the development of the function.

While an individual customer is less likely to be right than a knowledgeable business, the collective wisdom of a crowd suggests gives a great likelihood of a group of customers being right.

So whilst individual customers may not know more than a company, the community groundswell has a high level of collective wisdom. So for a developer to make this comment provides us with several important marketing lessons:

Vocal minority have problem with change – no doubt once they try it they’ll realize how awesome it is. No more RT spam!

Firstly, the “vocal minority” refers to a crowd of thinking users who have a want. Although it may not be the feature as envisaged by Twitter or the developer, users have the choice of either compromising their wishes, or of taking their business elsewhere.

Secondly, the developer has basically told his customers that they are wrong, and that he is right. This type of behaviour can be polarising, and can make many customers question whether they continue to do business with a company.

Thirdly, the developer is also criticising the way people use his product. “No more RT spam” refers to their additional comments users put into retweets. In my experience, this is not “spam”, but additional comments that give an insight into the retweeters opinion of the original tweet.

In my opinion, this one tweet from the developer shows poor marketing on several levels, and provides us with some key marketing lessons.

Lessons for Marketing

  1. Although the customer may not be right, informing them of that “fact” is rarely beneficial. Especially publicly.
  2. Customers have needs, wants and dreams. If these do not map to your products, forcing the customer to compromise is a tricky prospect. At least listen to them, and don’t lecture them.
  3. Individual customers are less likley to be “right” than a business with strong market research. However, “the wisdom of crowds” means that a collective of customers might have a good chance of being right.
  4. Listen to your customer using the “facial ratio”. You have two ears and one mouth!

Its ironic that the popularity of this particular app started from a groundswell. Hopefully the developer will listen and consider the wishes of the user base. The customer may not always be right, but it would probably be best if they stayed as customers.

A Song and Dance Experience Is Not A Great Product Experience

I was amused to see this Youtube clip (tweeted by @RichardGiles) showing the “spontaneous” breakout into song by staff members at the new Microsoft Store in Mission Viejo, California.

Watching this video I see several branding and marketing lessons.

Firstly, if imitation is the best form of flattery, how flattered must Apple and Steve Jobs be feeling now? I mean the whole thing – down to staff dress, furniture, wall paneling, etc – is a flagrant rip off of the Apple Store. I guess MS must feel that its worked so well for Apple, so why not just copy?

More importantly, this effort to force a viral customer experience is easy to see through. You can see the pained expressions on people’s faces standing around, and can even see people walking away. This would wear thin with me quickly.

As a semi-regular visitor to the Apple Store Sydney, I have never once been subjected to transparent efforts to make it look like fun.

In fact, the Apple Store is fun because of the experience provided by the products, and the staff who are knowledgeable and enthusiastic about those products.

I have to think that Microsoft realises that the product experience itself is ordinary, so they have to dress it up with these poor attempts at looking trendy, hip and viral.

The Microsoft Store reminds me of that silly paperclip thing that was a huge annoyance in earlier versions of Windows. A “song and dance” distraction to take your mind off the fact that the functionality and substance you want isn’t there.

At the Apple Store you get form and function. At the Microsoft Store, it seems like song and dance is the order of the day.

Customer Experience Lessons

  1. A great customer experience can’t be created without a great product. A thin veneer wears thin when you realise you fell for a song and dance sales pitch.
  2. Imitation might be a great form of flattery, but its rarely flattering for the one doing the imitating! Start with a great product, and forge your own story.

 

Protection for the Coral Triangle

Thanks to Steph from Beautiful Oceans for tweeting about this.

Australia’s Environment Minister (and former Midnight Oils frontman) Peter Garrett is traveling to the Solomon Islands to work on protection for the coral triangle – a region of incredible marine biodiversity situated to Australia’s north east.

Located adjacent to Australia’s northern waters, the Coral Triangle contains seventy five per cent of the world’s known coral species, one third of the world’s coral reef area, and more than 3,000 species of fish. Astoundingly, 240 million people are dependent on this ocean wealth for food and livelihoods.

Having traveled to the Solomon Islands twice, as well as to Vanuatu (twice) and PNG (four times), I’ve had the incredible opportunity to visit and dive the coral triangle. The diving here is amazing, and is generally matched by the spectacular above water scenery and the simple village life. I’ve also seen the impact of western life with rubbish and litter strewn about above and below water, as well as the impact of logging and overfishing!

Lets hope this results in positive action that reinforces to the people of the various nations in the coral triangle the importance of protecting their aquatic resources and resisting the short terms gains that can be made from abuse of them!

The Qantas Premium Economy Experience

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I recently had a trip to the US to attend the world’s premier scuba diving business expo – DEMA Show 2009. Having made many trips across the Pacific over the years, both for work and for pleasure, I have to admit that I wasn’t really looking forward to the travel part of the trip.

Don’t get me wrong, I love travel. But the customer experience of flying has been one that has generally been decreasing over the years. Airlines in particular have taken the romance out of flying and turned it into a purely transactional experience. In my opinion, this is a real shame because travel almost always involves some level of anticipation and excitement!

For this trip, I decided to spend a little extra and book myself on an aircraft offering Premium Economy. Traveling the Sydney – Los Angeles route, I had the choice of Qantas, V Australia or Delta offering this service. As a long term Qantas Frequent Flyer, and with the price being right, I decided to try the Qantas offering.

To be honest, I haven’t been particularly happy with my experiences flying Qantas recently. A one time “raving fan” of the airline, in recent times I’ve found that the airline (like all others) has done its utmost to ensure that our longstanding relationship is modified to a purely transactional one!

I travelled to LA on a Qantas Boeing 747-400 with Premium Economy, and returned to Sydney on the brand new Airbus A380. With the exception of some issues on checking in at Sydney, the experience was very positive.

Checking in in Sydney, I was told I had been bumped to a middle seat, despite having booked six months previously, and having confirmed an aisle seat then and having checked this online only a day before flying. I was told that I had been moved to make way for other passengers! Clearly my 18 years as a Qantas Frequent Flyer (many also as a Qantas Club member) is only worth something when its convenient to the company. I later found that we had had a change of aircraft, and a large number of people had been moved from economy, and I had been moved to make seats available! Fortunately, sanity prevailed, and I was moved back to an aisle seat.

Premium Economy passengers are invited to board the aircraft early, with First and Business passengers. On boarding, our dedicated cabin staff gave us a welcome drink, and introduced themselves individually, shaking hands with each passenger. Very impressed.

The seats were generous and comfortable, wider than standard economy. Legroom is noticeably more than economy, and each seat has a personal inseat entertainment screen and unit, along with a power outlet. I found the seats to be very comfortable. The entertainment was excellent with a wide variety of movies and television shows, along with music and games.

Food was excellent, and served more elegantly than in economy. Porcelain crockery was provided, and each passenger has a table cloth laid out on their tray. My only complaint was that on the flight out to LA, an insufficient number of meals had been loaded to give each passenger a choice of meals. Even though I was only half way back in my cabin, I did not have a choice. It was a good meal, nonetheless.

The cabin was comfortable, with dedicated crew, dedicated restrooms and a standup bar where you could self serve drinks and snacks throughout the flight. I guess that the telling thing about the comfort levels was that I got several hours sleep on each flight, something I rarely experienced in economy.

All in all, the Qantas Premium Economy was a fantastic experience. I am convinced that I will opt for Premium on flights to the US in the future. I will shop around for each trip, as my checkin experience in Sydney reinforced to me that Qantas will move their customers around anytime they need to for their convenience. I am sure that offerings from V Australia and others will provide a similar service. But anytime the price is right, I will be delighted to fly Qantas Premium Economy.

Des Paroz On The Go Relaunched

This blog, Des Paroz On The Go, has existed for many years (since c. 2003) and has had a consistent following among people interested in my thoughts and observations about marketing, business, technology, personal productivity and the online world.

Since moving out of a fulltime career in the IT industry in 2008, I’ve been building a business in vocation training and business development. My focus is on the recreational scuba diving industry, as I conduct PADI Instructor Development Courses and various other PADI, EFR, DAN and TecRec courses at the diver and instructor level.

A key focus for me is in developing dive and other outdoor recreation professionals with key skills in areas such as customer services and business, along with training skills.

So this blog is being relaunched to focus on business, the customer experience, personal productivity and technology that pertain to providing great customer service, in any industry. I’ll discuss experiences as a customer, and my perceptions of marketing.

I look forward to interaction and discussion on these topics.

Saddened to Hear of the Death of Vic Davies

I was saddened to hear of the passing of Vic Davies, former co-host of the long running (and very funny) radio show Club Veg.
I was a fan of Club Veg, and enjoyed the antics of Vic and Mal Lees, up until the show was axed by Triple M in 2002. For me, the axing of the Veggies was a turning of the tide, where I morphed from being a solid fan of “the M’s”, to a point now where I rarely listen to any radio at all.

Club Veg had a uniqely Australian humour, but had a fundamental respect for their audience. Their conversational style and the ability for them talk with (and not just to) people was something cool. And they were bloody funny too! Who could ever forget parody songs like “Minno – there’s no T in Minno” and “the Wanking song“.

RIP Vic. I still smile thinking of your antics!