Bentley College Marketing- Honors

This blog is for MK 402-H01 and the greater Bentley College population.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

"When your customers stay with you until you screw up"

The article “When your customers stay with you until you screw up” illustrates an example of how companies forget about after sales service in marketing. It explains how the author needed to get his car serviced, he first tried to go to the Ford dealership that he always uses for his car purchases and services. When they wouldn’t accommodate him, he called another one who could “squeeze” him into the schedule. The author comments on how he will use this new dealership until they manage to “screw up,” and then he will start the process again. He projects how this seems to be a trend in many industries, especially service ones such as the phone industry. He says that companies focus on attracting customers, but only keep them until they “screw up” so badly that they customer leaves in order to find better service. It’s easier for customers to stay with one company after purchasing from them since they did a lot of research in order to make that initial purchase; receiving service from the company that they already researched is more convenient than beginning that research all over again.
This article is marketing related because it explores the after-sales service aspect of the marketing mix. While the marketing concept has gained widespread popularity, making companies focus on “putting the customer first,” the integral aspect of after-sales service is often neglected. The customer seems to come first in designing the product, in pricing it appropriately, in communicating through various channels, and in selling it in different outlets. In most cases, once the customer has been “persuaded” to purchase the product, the marketing ends. The development of customer loyalty programs indicates that some firms are taking advantage of the fact that holding on to current customers is so important since the cost of acquisition is so high. Companies can become much more successful if they learn how to increase sales from existing customers by keeping them happy for a long time.
This story improves my understanding of marketing due to its illustrative example of how customer service can affect brand switching so easily. In product categories with high risk, whatever type, pre-purchase research is common. However, the author points out how after this initial research, the consumer sticks with the brand that his research brought him to until a negative experience changes his perception of that brand. As a marketing student, marketing is often taught as how to get someone to purchase a product or service. Examples such as this illustrate how marketing can be applied to many other stages of consumer purchase. Also, the author says that marketers should make it “easy” for customers to return to a specific brand for service or repeat purchase. He implies that in today’s crowded marketplace, decisions that can be easy should be taken advantage of in order to keep customers coming back and spending their money on the brand they first chose. This article also reminds me of the “Social Consumer Manifesto” that urges marketers to treat consumers as they wish to be treated. If marketers could just apply the common sense to put themselves in the consumers’ shoes, every business would have exceptional after-sales customer service. Obviously, no one likes getting automated phone messages or unaccommodating service representatives. It just makes sense – treat your customers how you would want to be treated and they will come back to spend more money with you instead of with your competitor.
This piece does an excellent job of providing both an example of a marketing trend in the marketplace today along with an analysis of this trend in a marketing context. One thing that could have strengthened his argument would be to give another example of a company that is implementing post-sales service well. By having some illustrations of companies that are living these “best practices,” others can learn how to take full advantage of keeping their current loyal customers satisfied. One other thing that this posting could have explored is the after-sales customer service in B2B markets. I believe that B2B marketing concentrates more on the customer service aspect since businesses usually have more purchasing power since contracts for large dollar amounts are usually in place. When the business actually has a written “value,” more emphasis is placed on retaining that business and making sure that they are happy with the product or service being provided. Therefore, post-sales service may take more prevalence since renewal of a purchase agreement ensures a large dollar amount.

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