Coupon Clipped!

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I am one of those people who can happily clip coupons for an hour, then leave them in my car or at home, along with my reusable grocery bags. I really would like to save money, but somehow the effort put into collecting the coupons is trumped by my haste to get the shopping finished.

So when I do remember the coupons, I find it extremely annoying that there are limitations in the fine print on said coupons. And it is almost always on the specific items I would like to purchase. The first time this happened, I intended to buy a make-up item, but naturally the brand I wanted was listed in the fine print as being among those where the discount did not apply.

The second time a nice coupon from being a member of some loyalty program came along, that same thing happened. I went to purchase the item, happy that I was getting a 50% break on the marked-up price, only to find out that said item was not included in the discount. “That just figures,” I snapped. I felt as though I had been duped again, lured into the store with what appeared to be something great, and then leaving angry.

Retailers, listen up! Either offer a coupon that applies to EVERYTHING. or do not offer one at all! Consumers join your loyalty programs left and right, only to discover that their savings are extremely limited, or their VIP coupons do not work on everything they wish to purchase. Lord knows you’ve already jacked up the prices to cover untold costs and still ensure a profit, so why limit what is supposed to be a reward? And you restaurants? Ditch the “buy one/get one half off as long as you buy two drinks” deal too! Every consumer out there knows your soda fountain syrups only cost the restaurant pennies! Why continue ensuring profits but losing customers this way?

Remember the rule: it costs you seven times more money to land a new customer than it does to keep a happy and returning customer.

Businesses simply need to stop toying with coupons and discounts to ensure they actually stay in business. And isn’t that what a business dreams of in this unstable economy? The next time you are about to offer a coupon, make sure it is genuine and all-inclusive, and then sit back and watch your customer base grow.

Customer Service? How About “Customer DIS-Service”?

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I have had some really interesting customer service interactions as of late. Really, what they were would better be likened to “Customer DIS-Service”. My biggest fear that this kind of incident when out in the marketplace is going to become the norm seems to be in the process of becoming real. If it declines any more, I am not sure what is going to become of us.

The first incident involved my name. The name given to me at birth, and that I will take with me to the grave. I can’t recall who said it, but the sound of a person’s own name is the most beautiful sound they ever hear. So to have it butchered is quite painful. Granted my name is difficult, but with a little more attention to detail, most people get it right. There are a few out there that no matter how many times I correct them, they simply cannot make their mouths form the correct sounds, I guess. My dealings with them, needless to say, are a little more “arm’s length” as it is apparent that they cannot be bothered with this little detail. But I digress.

The incident was a lazy salesperson at a golf store. When he went to put down my name for a salesperson to follow up on, he made a mistake as I was spelling it for him, crossed it out, and began to write again, making yet another mistake. He said, “How about we just call you ‘Ann’?” I said, “No, because that is NOT my name.” I am not about to be sorry that my name caused him some discomfort in his efforts. Ultimately, his laziness at his attempts to get something to the customer’s satisfaction caused me negative feelings about the store in general. Pay attention when getting someone’s name!

The second incident was also oddly at a golf store. Two employees there were vying for the opportunity to assist my husband and me, and it was getting ugly. It felt more like a territorial dog peeing contest as to which one was going to give the correct advice. I can only guess that commission-based salaries or bonuses were in play here. One would leave for a few minutes and the other would swoop in to counter previous advice, and back and forth. It was getting almost comical were I not feeling more like a fire hydrant instead of a customer. Again, another lost sale.

The last incident involved a restaurant. We were seated, and a friendly waiter appeared, told us he would be right back, and then disappeared for 20 minutes. Finally we contacted the hostess, who interestingly looked toward the parking lot instead of back toward the kitchen when we told her our waiter was missing. I could only conclude this wasn’t his first vanishing act. Another came and took good care of us, but then we were subject to the awkward situation where the previous employee was being scolded by the manager out on the floor in front of diners.To make things even more awkward, this first waiter came over later to apologize and mention he was giving his two-week notice right then and there. It felt like we were in the middle of a family squabble rather than one of Denver’s finer dining establishments. Needless to say, I am going to conclude that with this kind of drama on the floor, and another successful tavern already drawing customers a few doors down, this restaurant may be headed for its demise. And of course the second waiter got the fat tip for jumping in.

Service-people are human, I get that. but leaving personal dramas or lack of attention to detail at home is always one’s best bet. Customer service should not be “the new luxury” as someone once told me. A business that is going to succeed will live by the motto “Customer is King”, and train its employees that there is a degree of professionalism they are expected to maintain at all times. A customer who has such an awkward experience, as I have given three examples of above, isn’t likely to return. And you customers need to do your part and let management know when these kinds of things happen so the business can make improvements.

Once we start stating and modeling the kinds of behaviors we expect, the more likely we are to get them.

Is it me, or is product quality really falling?

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Strangely, I am noticing more and more that the quality of products whether imported or domestic, is falling. Now, I am old enough to know that part of this is due to the fact that I AM now old enough to notice things not being up to par. It is a trait of being younger that one just accepts inferior quality. As an older, more seasoned consumer, those precious dollars I bust my heiny for had better be purchasing quality.

On two recent occasions, I have had to contact fairly well-known companies to tell them, “Hey, one of your products is not doing what it should be doing.” On both occasions, the product was replaced. Major customer service salute to Columbia, the outdoor clothing company, for replacing a defective pair of boots I had help on to for 12 years! The second company was Silpada, the network marketing jewelry company. A chain I had purchased seemed to be showing unusual wear for something that was supposed to be Tiffany-grade silver, so they are replacing that, too.

Needless to say, this kind of customer service gets a major salute from me, but should these products be showing lesser quality like that in the first place? Now, I know some of you (that is is anyone is actually reading this – after all most blogs are an exercise in vanity) are crying “Foul! Those boots were 12 years old!” Yes, it’s true, but when I noticed the cracking, it was clear to me and the company that this was not your normal 12-year-deterioration. Is it our mass-production world leading to inferior quality? Our imports from countries with lower standards than America has?

Whatever it is, I choose to look on my incidents as not a practice of complaining to get what I want, but as a reach-out to the company in question to seriously assist them in making their products better. I knew the Columbia thing was a long-shot, and I really did not expect anything from them in return. I simply assumed they may want to know their product was “behaving badly.” They went above and beyond to remedy the situation, and in the snowy climes of Colorado, I am happy to have a new, functional pair of snowboots. In the process, they have made a Columbia customer for life, which is always far more productive and profitable than trying to land a new consumer.

As for Silpada, I knew they backed everything they make with a guarantee. When I noticed what would appear to be silver-plated product to most consumers, I needed to let them know this was not acceptable, if indeed that was what it was. They were quick to decide a replacement was in order, and for that I am thankful. Especially when the item was not inexpensive.

The thing is companies cannot make things better if they do not know there is a problem in the first place. In our disposable society, most consumers figure they ought to just throw said item out and purchase a new one. However, this is a Catch 22; the company cannot improve its products until someone informs them of the defect, and products will continue to be defective on occasion if the company does not know to fix it.

It most circles, this is known as “feedback”, and it is this kind of feedback that will improve things for everyone. Do yourself and a company the favor of giving feedback on products so we can enjoy more and throw out less. Teach your kids to look for quality. And by all means, let yourself begin to view what was formerly called a complaint now be titled “feedback” in your mind. The world will be a better place for your efforts. And you companies who continue to view this kind of feedback as a favor, I salute you.ImageGet the book!