A successful business starts with a good and unique product, and lives on because of great service. At least, I think that’s the basis for the old maxim ‘if you have a problem with it, tell us; if you like it, tell others’. When you’re told about problems, you can fix them, and, well, you get the main idea. This is also almost exactly what people have been doing for a very long time. Only, they always told others about it. In the last millennium, that was not a huge issue. The reach that the average consumer had, was not that far stretching. They discussed your brand on birthday parties, during water cooler chats or any other gathering, mostly with a very small audience. But of course, as we all know, that has changed. Big time. Now they talk about you on Facebook, Twitter, blogs, rating sites and their reach, also because of the shareability of these type of conversations, has expanded to nightmare proportions for marketers. That this can go very bad, has been proven many times; ‘United breaks guitars’ is just one, but my favorite, example.
That great managing of social media and the conversations that go on there, is not enough has also been proven. The video about the christmas present campaign of Spanair was shared many, many times. People loved it. Still, the airline went bankrupt. And that is not just limited to social media, by the way. Even a wonderful, widely published, expensive marketing campaign, cannot cover the facts. Just ask Chevron, of which some say it’s a champion in greenwashing. The internet and its many sources of information have made sure that doing business has become a bit more transparent.
So, you need to have something that adds value to your consumers to begin with, and maintain great customer relations to keep the people happy. I thought that was clear. I mean, what I have shared here so far, should not be surprising to anyone. What is surprising however, is that there are still so many companies out there who simply don’t get it. Who are trying to make a few cents at their customers expense, and don’t care. Recently I had such an experience.
A service provider called Extelsol, who claims to help expats in the Düsseldorf area get connected to the best internet connections, advised us. We were referred to him by another service provider who has been exemplary in how they helped us. As were the other companies they referred us to. So, we trusted this guy as well. Big mistake on our part. Sure, he advised a connection that looked good on paper (and according to him was basically the only option). It was cheaper for us to get it online directly from the provider, but he promised ‘personal service’, was recommended by that other company, so we decided to give him some business. As it turned out: the advertised connection speeds were not deliverd, and there was another solution that was quicker. When I asked him for advise on how to terminate the contract with the provider he had told us was the only one available, he told me that is was between me and the provider and that he could not get involved. Then it became clear to me that his service was not about his clients, but about getting reseller fees. In the end, he even became rude in our conversation, and he refused to help. Even with some advise on which steps I had to take to terminate that contract. Needless to say, that not only will I not do business with him again, I will also advise anybody I meet to not let him handle things, and of course I will share this with the referring company, because I think he reflects badly on their exemplary service. On top of that: I share this story here.
To be fair to the provider in question: they do guarantee their connection speed, and if you as a customer are of the opinion that they don’t deliver, you can choose to cancel the contract without any problems, within 2 months. You can also choose for them to fix it. That’s actually quite good service
So, if there’s any lessons I took from this: design and deliver a good product, and great service first, in a profitable way. Then engage with your (potential) consumers on all channels you have available and can afford. And make it easy for your satisfied customers to share about you, but also to tell you about problems. And if they do that, thank them for pointing out the flaws and giving you the opportunity to improve your product. I think with that, you have a good start of an endurable business.