No one is interested in your great story if your customer experience sucks.
I like to shop locally whenever possible but couldn’t find containers I loved for our large plants so I turned to The Google. After some searching around, I was quickly seduced by a beautiful photo of a modern white cylinder container that would be the perfect accent in our living room. I clicked through to a gorgeous website that curates modern Italian decor for the home. Over the past few years, I’ve slowly been upgrading things like the sofa, the area rug to change up my surroundings. I’m no interior designer, but hey, I fancy myself a modern Italian home and this would fit in perfectly with my vision. I loved this story so much, I ended up paying more for the containers than I planned to pay when I started that Google search.
Then the containers arrived. And, the package took me a half hour to open. I had to actually cut through the cardboard because it was glued shut, not taped shut. Here’s is a photo I took in the midst of my “unboxing frustration,” when I took a break to catch my breath and let my poor fingers get some rest:
And there were two, so I had to do it twice.
When I triumphed over heavy duty box in anticipation, I pulled out the container to realize they weren’t as gorgeous sitting there on the dog-worn hardwood floor in my living room, without the stunning studio lighting. Amazing what a good description and photography on a nicely designed website can do, isn’t it?
I wouldn’t have even had to open the second box because I was just going to return them out of disappointment, when I noticed: I can’t return them. Final sale. And mind you, I didn’t buy these at a discount or on a close-out website. Maybe it said “final sale” somewhere but I certainly missed it during the purchase process.
My point here is not to complain over a couple of plant containers. My life is far from ruined by this tiny incident, but to show you that even the best stories will fall flat if your customer experience doesn’t support them.
Do you think we’ll ever do business with this company again? No. Because they pulled us in with a great story and they disappointed with an underwhelming product, a stupidly frustrating unboxing experience, and a strict (non-existent) return policy.
Marketing communicators are often held accountable for poor results when we should really be looking at the distribution center and product development. But of course, we can’t deflect blame, we want to take accountability which is why we often push back with clients when they ask us why we aren’t performing (send more emails to past clients and get them to come back) and instead, work to collaborate with other departments.
There’s the long game and the short game. These are two very different stories. Nordstrom, REI and Patagonia are in it for the long game. It’s why they have highly generous return policies and make products that last a long time. It’s why Patagonia can run ads that say “don’t buy this jacket,” and still be a thriving business – because their story is embedded in everything they do.
These businesses know about the Three Percent Jerk Rule – a small percentage of people will always take advantage of their generosity – but that they win in the long run thanks to building a loyal following by telling a story that resonates not only from their print ads but all the way through to their product development, customer policies and distribution. (This is also why I happen to support programs that help the needy and welcome refugees, because despite the small number of people who will take advantage of us, we will all win in the long run but I very much digress.)
The brands we don’t hear about, don’t read about and don’t last longer than a handful of years are playing the short game. Stingy policies and lackluster customer experience will turn you in to one-hit wonders like Soft Cell and Vanilla Ice.
A good story goes so much deeper than the content we create. Customer experience (including the unboxing!), return policies, distribution and product development contribute wittingly, or unwittingly, contribute to your brand story. No one is interested in your great story if the customer experience sucks.[ssba]
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