Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Promises, promises

If you're running a business, here's a tip:

Only make promises you're prepared to keep.

A friend of mine, driven by the desire to shop at a locally-owned business and swayed by the promise of a free tune-up within one year of purchase, spent nearly $2,000 on a new bike at Williamson Bicycle Works last year.

Willy Bikes as they're called by the locals, has been around forever. The founder has a great reputation for taking care of customers, but clearly something has changed.

When my friend called to set up an appointment for his tune-up he was told they were too busy to take appointments over the phone. He would have to bring the bike in, leave it for a day and only then would they give him an estimate and schedule an appointment sometime next month. After explaining that he lives 30 miles away and he just wanted an appointment for his complimentary new bike tune-up, the tech reiterated, "No. Bring it in, leave it for a day and then you will get an appointment next month." and then hung up.

Customer service is about making things easy for customers, not you. The service process that Willy Bikes designed may work for the company – allowing them to control employee schedules and inventory –  it clearly doesn't work for the customer. 

Yes, we know you're busy assembling new bikes, getting the shop ready for the season, and handling lots of calls from people who want service. But that shouldn't be a surprise to you because after all, it is spring and you're always busy this time of year.

That's your problem, not your customers'.

You promised free tune-ups to people who purchased bikes last year and you have to give them within a reasonable time frame or expect your customers to be unhappy. If that means adding a few techs who are dedicated to doing just that for a few weeks out of the year then so be it.

Instead, Willy Bikes pissed off a guy who spent a lot of money with them last year. And because of that 15 people he knows are in the market for a new bike received an email yesterday that ended:

"Congratulations to Willy Bikes for being so busy that they don't need my business. Perhaps they don't need yours either."

Marketing gets you customers, service keeps it. Make sure you design your after-sale service to meet your customers' needs or be prepared to lose them.

1 comment:

  1. A great real story about the power and importance of brand promises. Too often, companies will promise things they can't deliver just in the interest of making the sale...it's short-term thinking. The story provides further guidance about viewing the customer experience through the customer's eyes, not through those of the business. Bottom line: if you can't deliver the promise, don't make it, however tempting it may seem at the time. Great (and successful) brands make compelling promises and keep them, day-in and day-out...without exception.