Our very first instincts as service providers is to defend our products, goods and services when a customer tries to talk down on it. We think we are de-marketing our products, if we concede or accept this feedback.

Have you tried buying something from a hawker on the streets and instinctively the hawker rises to the defense of the ware?

These your oranges small oo…

Nooo.. e no small ooo… them big well well…

These your plantain overripe too much now…

Noooo… e no overripe ooo… na correct wan…

These your apples small ooo….

No sir, them big well well…

Almost always, perhaps goods and service providers assume the customer doesn’t know what he or she is saying, or perhaps they just feel this involuntary obligation to defend their products.

The customer does an evaluation of the product, and decides to buy or not to buy. It wasn’t the denial or argument of the seller that influenced the customer’s decision. The customer’s perception is very vital to the impact the product makes in the market.

Toyota does something very interesting to continue to boost its sales and appeal to the customers. Each brand of Toyota car that is released, before it hits the market, Toyota gives over 300 of those cars to families to drive and to give them feedback on what they’d like to see in the vehicle that’s not there. They also welcome feedback and criticism from the drivers. They don’t argue with these feedbacks or try to impress on the customers why they did what they did. Imagine if 250 out of 300 customers who tested a brand of the vehicle say that the driver’s seat is uncomfortable. Yet, the car company would be arguing that the seats are just perfect. That product would be dead on arrival.

Good customers experience management is to accept criticism and feedback from customers. Not just accept them, but try and improve on the service delivery based on the feedback. Some service providers feel offended if the customer gives a negative feedback. But they like the positive feedback and they want to splash it everywhere.

It appears that the last person service providers think of in developing a product is in fact the customer who would use the product! Service providers are more engrossed with competition, the next model, the market spread, sales and profits margin. But very little about the customers’ perception or satisfaction of the product.

I bought a smartphone once from an outlet. It malfunction almost at once, in less than a week. The charging was not coming on. I walked into the smartphone company shop and lodged a complaint. They took a look at the smartphone examined it and gave me a brand new one with no questions asked. I wondered why. But I didnt need to wonder for long. My assumption was that if they had refused to replace it and I walked into their competition’s shop to lodge this similar complaint. They would run a quick advertisement on it and they would immediately affect the customers’ perception of the brand.

I’ve seen an executive of an IT Company that makes laptops using the laptop of a competition. His company fired him for lack of brand loyalty, but they missed the point to ask why he had preference for the other brand.

A top car company MD was fired because of the advert it’s competition brought out in a GQ Magazine saying it’d MD goes to work in their own brand of car and not the brand of car he works for. While it was true, but why would the MD have preference for the competition’s vehicle. This was feedback that was ignored by the service provider. Have you observed that employees of telecoms companies are using other telephone networks? Have you observed that bank employees are banking with other banks? Rather than the service provider to study this trend and use the feedback positively, the defend their brand by firing the employees for lack of brand loyalty.

I’ve interacted with service providers and asked them series of questions on what their competition was doing. The response I got was shocking. I was told they were not interested in their competition and only knew about their brand and their services. This is wrong. A service provider must be aware of competition and also have knowledge of similar products for comparison. It’s a good point to market a customer who mentions competition by selling what edge your products have over the other one.

Every customers’ feedback counts. Any business that has a customer complaint is lucky. The customer is giving the service provider an opportunity to improve on the service delivery. Most customers don’t give the service provider that opportunity. They just walk away and tell 8-10 people reasons not to do business with that company. They post it on social media and it’s too late at that point to salvage the brand. It hits back at the company and sales drop.

Make it count. The customer is the reason you are in business. It’s not the other way round.

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