Sincerity and competence are the currencies of customer interaction. Consumers may sometimes engage with a brand after seeing clever commercials or hearing a catchy jingle, but they are not very likely continue to be the customers after they encounter indifference and incompetence.
Nowadays brands wrestle with the challenge of engaging customers, but they fail to deploy the most powerful weapon in their arsenal – their employees. Instead they employ slick campaigns and technology to shield the employees from the customers. I infer they do it to save cost, but considering the expense of their marketing activities and questionable results they often produce, an investment in quality employees may be much better choice.
I wrote before about my customer experience with Nissan, the brand considered by many to be a competent marketing player. Every time Nissan marketing attempted to engage with me, they created a desire to severe my relationship with the brand. Every offer for service they mailed was accompanied by frustration with my inability to make an appointment without a switchboard hassle. The new “loyalty” program email, outsourced to a “specialist” company and signed by its president, sent me through another phone tree hell. You really do not need an expert to figure out that an email with do-not-respond return address is NOT a great way to grow loyalty! All these marketing shenanigans drove me to do my car service at any place but the Nissan dealership that paid for them.
Recently, my car keyless car entry dongle started to lose its power and I needed to replace the battery. The auto parts stores and a garage, where I went to do an oil change, could not help me. I stopped by the dealership to setup an appointment and was blown away with their sincere desire to help and the competence of the people I met there. When I recall all 3 interactions I had with the dealership employees over the years of my relationship with Nissan, every one of them was extremely positive. Next time I am there, I should explore an opportunity to remove my name and address from their marketing list. If this is possible, I may consider buying my next car there.
This is only one example, but this problem is not limited to Nissan. Our analysis of customer reviews shows traces of this problem experienced by customers of many other brands.
Technology can be a very powerful weapon, but if it is used by a company to shield its employees from its customers, it will backfire, as both the customers and the best employees will leave the company in frustration. Marketing is about trust and the companies that hide behind technology will not be trusted.