Acceptance is the first step to recovery

September 7, 2010 by

Last week, I received my first Happy Anniversary letter from my mobile phone service provider. I’ve been a semi-satisfied customer with them for over 10 years. A “thank you for being a valuable customer” letter is fairly common and is used to cultivate loyalty. Usually, it feels nice to be remembered. Unbeknownst to the company, I have been frustrated for the greater part of 10 years and have continued the relationship mainly because the switching costs are too high.

Within my Happy Anniversary letter, there was a website that I could visit to select a special anniversary offer. My gift options were free additional usage or a cash rebate applied to a future bill. Again, this is a common practice to reward product or service loyalty. From a customer standpoint, the process should be simple and straightforward:

• login to my account
• go to a website
• select a gift offer
• apply the gift offer to my account

Relatively simple campaigns often fail to achieve the desired results due to either the offer or the execution. An ill-executed loyalty program can actually drive customers away.

Here’s an example of a campaign that didn’t work out as intended.

  1. The gift offer did not provide significant value
    I welcome any no cost, no strings attached gift offer. Unfortunately in this case, the first gift offer option was of no value. My calling plan gives me unlimited usage. Offering me additional monthly minutes when I have unlimited monthly usage makes no sense.
  2. I could not find the website to choose my gift offer
    Fortunately, there was an alternative offer - a modest cash discount off of a future bill. To utilize the discount, I must log in to my account and find the gift offer website. Once I find the website, I must enter a promotional code and select my gift offer. I am sure this would work out well assuming the website can be located. I never found the website.
  3. Customer Service was not aware of the campaign
    The natural fall back option is to contact Customer Service for assistance. I expected a customer service rep would have some knowledge about existing campaigns and special offers. The rep could gently point out my user error and walk me through the website to the offer. The rep could have even applied the discount for me. This would resolve my issue if Customer Service were aware of the campaign. They were not.
  4. Time wasted, no resolution
    When a company offers a gift or an incentive to customers, the company must make the redemption process as easy and seamless as possible. Between searching for the correct website, waiting in the customer service queue and speaking to a live rep, I spent 30 minutes trying to obtain my gift. Unfortunately, I could not get a satisfactory resolution and ended up frustrated. Again.

The intent of the Happy Anniversary letter was to make me feel good about the relationship between me and my mobile phone service provider. Instead, I received the usual suboptimal customer experience. The sad part is I wasn’t even surprised.

As an aside, the company recently aired a forthright commercial about customer concerns. In this commercial, the CEO spoke directly into the camera and admitted the company was aware of problems with their service. We have problems and we are trying to fix them. Please be patient, the CEO intoned.

Acceptance is the first step to recovery.

Oddly enough, something valuable could come out of this campaign if the company elects to pursue it.

In an upcoming entry, I will discuss valuable information that can be learned through a campaign that has gone wrong.