Why marketing is one of the main drivers of customer dissatisfaction

I find it interesting that on the one hand the CMO is often given the leadership role in improving the customer experience and on the other hand the marketing function is one of the  prime culprits in generating customer dissatisfaction, calls into the call centre and customer churn.

How exactly does the marketing function contribute to customer unhappiness, negative word of mouth and customer churn?  By misleading the customer – sometimes unintentionally but often intentionally.  Lets make this real by sharing some examples:

Recently Vauxhall (GM brand in the UK) has had to change its Lifetime Warranty advert after customer complaints.  Why did some people complain and get the ad changed?  If you read the small print you find that the Lifetime Warranty is not a lifetime warranty in the sense that the normal person understands it.  Specifically, the warranty covers only the first 100,000.  And it applies only to the first owner – the warranty is not transferable to later owners.

How many people will buy a Vauxhall car without reading the small print and then be disappointed?  How many of these customers will then ring the contact centre to complain?  How many will go on to tweet about their negative experience?

My wife shops with La Redoubte regularly so she was pleased when she got a promotional offer through the post.  She proceeded to spend a considerable amount of time and psychic energy in choosing the two garments she wanted.  Then she range the contact centre to place her order.  Only after she had placed her order did she find that she could not get the promotional discount: apparently the promotion did not apply.  Yet the agent could not explain why not – at least not to my wife’s satisfaction.

Result: my wife is no longer an advocate and a loyal shopper that La Redoubte can take for granted.  I will be writing a post about this soon to draw out some insights.

In the UK, the mobile operators are advertising very favourable offers.  When you look at the offers you find that at a price point in the 18 month contract, the customer has to reclaim a certain discount (that is used to advertise low monthly charges) and has to use specific procedure and complete this procedure in a specific time.

The marketing thinking behind this is clear:  you can get customers because the pricing looks attractive and yet the customer’s end up paying more because the redemption process has been designed to make sure that only the most diligent customers will successfully redeem the discount.   How many of these customers will ring the contact centre to complain?  How many are being taught to distrust marketing communications?

Then you have my BSkyB experience that I wrote about back in September 2010.  Where I shared my story of how I was lured in by the slick marketing promising a bundled offer and an easy life only to find a very different reality:  How to turn an advocate into a detractor?

Are these the only companies that are engaged in these practices?  No.  I am not pointing my finger at these ‘bad’ companies – they are no better and no worse than the majority of companies.  Why is that?  Because the practice of misleading customers either through sloppy communication or deliberate manipulation is widespread.  It is even considered good marketing!

Posted on January 11, 2011, in Case Studies, Customer Experience, Customer Service, Marketing and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Richard Sheahan

    In many organisations sales and marketing retain their macho (if no longer male-dominated) culture and short term focus, seeking attention for brands in a hyper-competitive environment by making claims at the edge of acceptability/legality – and sometimes beyond (cf other macho environments – investment banks etc). The increasing fragmentation of many organisations and their panicky response to any fall in growth rates that might affect shareholder value reinforce these habits – and hang the consequences for current and new customers and for their own colleagues in service.

    This is partly about reward and I did have a positive and enlightening experience recently. I was ‘forced’ to visit Carphone Warehouse and expected the worst. We did have a problem but it was not their fault, rther an error by T-Mobile. The place did seem different. Having apologised for my infuriated and unjustified initial response to their position, I got talking to the manager about mobile network service. This might be common knowledge in the CE/CS business, but he mentioned that CW people are no longer rewarded with commission on sales, but with a salary plus bonus for the quality of the service they deliver to customers. Let’s hope they are more successful in the future than they have been in the past.

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    • Hello Richard, I thank you for sharing your perpective and your experience.

      I am a great believer in ‘structure drives behaviour’. Put differently, if the current is strong even the best swimmers eventually go with the current. I a am confident that many marketers find themselves in that position: doing what what the organisations expects them to do, the law allows them to do and consumers accept or fall for.

      As for your Carphone Warehouse experience, I am more cynical than you are. Why? Because Carphone Warehouse along with all the other mobile phone retailers act as distribution arms for the mobile networks. In practice that means that each of these retailers signs up to sell a certain volume of ‘products’ for each of these networks. It is not an uncommon practice for the retail sales folks to be told to sell T-mobile contracts if the monthly Vodafone quota is met. Is this the practice today? Do not know. Was this the practive a few years back? Definately. Is Carphone Warehouse doing something like this today? I do not know.

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