Putting bad revenue ahead of good customer service?

29 September 2015

Written by Kate De Marco

I recently had an infuriating experience with my electricity company. One which highlighted to me so many factors of where businesses are going wrong with marketing automation and customer experience.

I was so infuriated that I took to my own personal soapbox on facebook. Previously an advocate of my electricity company, through one piece of marketing automation they had turned me into a detractor on the verge of churning. So what had they done that incensed so much rage in me … they sent me an SMS reminder to pay my bill, the day after it was due … and, most pertinently, after the penalty fee had been incurred.

This SMS infuriated me both in a personal and a professional sense. Personally, because for an instant I thought their SMS was being helpful. Professionally, because talk of customer centricity, customer journeys and delivering exceptional customer service so often isn’t translating into what customers actually experience. So where did they go wrong? And is your business making any of these mistakes?

  • Prioritising short term revenue over long term customer value?

The timing of the SMS could have been a deployment error. Their intention could have been to send the SMS a day earlier, providing a useful reminder for me to pay my bill on time. But in my experience penalty fees are such a signficiant revenue source within organisations, that the short term gain of hefty fees is often prioritisied over providing great customer service (and winning customers for the long term).

  • Giving enough thought to customer experience & how communications will be received?

Choice of channel and timing have a significant impact on how a message will be received. If the overdue reminder from the power company came by email a week after the bill was due I would not have been so enraged. But the immediacy of SMS highlighted that I had been contacted immediately after the fee had been incurred.

  • Being reactive to negative moments of truth rather than proactively preventing them?

When I called the call centre to complain about the timing of the SMS I was appeased with the fee being reversed, but not before damage to my perception of the brand was done. The irony here is that marketing automation can enable communications to be triggered to customers when they will be most valuable and should help to proactively prevent key customer pain points (not cause them).

  • Not differentiating treatment of your high value customers?

Some customers are not worth keeping. The cost to the business of keeping them is higher than they are worth. I am not one of those customers. My power bills are ginormous and I always pay on time (until now). But at no point during this experience did I feel that my value as a customer was recognised or appreciated. As the cliché goes, if you don’t look after your customers someone else will.

For my electricty company to improve their customer service significantly all they would have to do is trigger their SMS a day earlier. But from my experience the greatest challenge here isn’t the marketing automation, it’s the mindset shift required to prioritise customer needs and deliver great customer experiences.

Kate De Marco – Senior CRM Planner (kate.demarco@tracknz.com)