Quarter Life Crisis

The world according to Sven-S. Porst

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Customer Dissatisfaction

661 words

I don't know much about all those customer 'reward' programs. But they seem to be ubiquitous by now. And the bottom line seems to be that you give up your privacy for a per cent or two of the price of your shopping. Even worse, you also give up your peace of mind as you'll start keeping in mind the 'benefits' of shopping at a different place and probably lose more in effort and time doing those comparisons than you save in money.

Seen from the other side, I suppose that the idea of such schemes is to make the customer more comfortable at your store than at others by giving him/her a better price or even special discounts and service. I guess that makes sense for the supermarkets and other stores. On a smaller scale you sometimes see little schemes where you get a little sticker or stamp for every coffee / cinema ticket / other good you buy or amount of money you spend. Once your card is full of stamps you'll get a free coffee / cinema ticket or some other little gift.

I witnessed such a scheme in practice today and it just sucked ass. They had set up an 'easter' themed scheme at a department store where people get a little easter egg sticker for each five Euros they spend. Once they have fifty of those they'll get something. The woman two places ahead of me in the queue was participating in that scheme and got her easter egg stickers. Then she noticed that she had only gotten four stickers although she had bought something for twenty five Euros.

Well, technically, she had bought something for 24,99 Euros but, well, that's just twenty five isn't it? So she asked the cashier whether she could have a fifth sticker – she had essentially spent the required amount after all. In the typical charme of German department stores, the cashier told her that, no, she couldn't have a fifth sticker as she hadn't reached the amount required for that. And she added that the manager had specifically told them to be anal about that (she used different words, though).

Needless to say the woman who asked wasn't particularly happy with that. In addition, the next person in the queue who had been studying the little brochure for that scheme, just put it back because it seemed quite hostile all of a sudden.

It's obvious that these people or their managers just get the whole thing wrong. First they probably spend shitloads of money on consultants to make up that scheme for them, then they set it up, print brochures and stickers and everything and probably train their staff to deal with it. All this to have happy and loyal customers!

And then, in a last step, they let someone instruct their staff to alienate those customers instead of being nice to them. Of the three options of (a) giving that extra sticker to customers voluntarily if they're just a few cents off the required amount, (b) giving that extra sticker to customers if they ask for it in case they're a few cents off the required amount and (c) strictly not giving that extra sticker to customers who are a few cents below the required amount, I think it's pretty safe to say that the cost of all three of them is about the same.

But the effect is vastly different: In case (a) the customer will be happy to discover that she got an 'extra' sticker. She'll think that the department store or at least the cashier has been generous. Good vibes all over. In case (b) the customer will still be reasonably happy. And in case (c), i.e the real world, the participating customer has been alienated, the next customer was put off the whole scheme and Sven-S. Porst could smugly note that Karstadt really is as moronic a place as he thought it is.

Well done!

April 14, 2006, 10:31

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