Thursday, December 1st, 2011
This post is the ninth in a series that will identify 10 different obstacles that have emerged from my analysis of customer satisfaction data. Maybe you will have encountered one or more of these obstacles in your own business? The ninth obstacle is deception.
Deception encompasses everything from the fine print used to mask hidden fees and other undesirable terms and conditions, to bait-and-switch marketing tactics that entice consumers with an attractive offer before substituting a costlier product or service.
Just last night, I stopped by my local King Soopers supermarket to pick up some essentials. Over the store intercom, I heard a woman’s voice:
“Attention shoppers: We will be giving away free merchandise at the red and black counter near Customer Service at the front of the store. This is the last announcement you will here. If you want free merchandise, please go right now to the red and black counter near Customer Service at the front of the store!”
Free merchandise? It sounded too good to be true. I’d been shopping at this particular King Soopers for more than 10 years and, with the exception of an occasional in-store taste sampling, had never heard of a promotion like this before. Intrigued, I made my way to the front of the store.
By the time I arrived, a small crowd had gathered in front of the red and black counter to receive free merchandise as instructed by the announcement.
Just then, a woman emerged from behind the counter and asked the crowd to squeeze in close so more people could fit around her booth. The woman was very animated. She held up an apple, asking the crowd to shout “Apple!” as she positioned the fruit to be sliced, diced, and pureed with her amazing food processor—for only $29.95!
A minute into her spiel it was evident that, in order to receive a free set of steak knives, you had to subject yourself to a protracted product demonstration replete with awkward humor and contrived attempts to involve the audience.
About this time, customers began to reconsider the sensational offer and resumed their shopping. I didn’t take a poll but I bet many of those customers felt duped by the original intercom announcement promising free merchandise.
In King Soopers’ defense, although it sells groceries, it is largely a marketing company that competes for the attention (and spending) of consumers in a noisy and competitive marketplace. Sometimes, it may seem necessary to make an outrageous claim simply to command the fleeting attention of prospective customers. And if some consumers feel duped, well, that’s just business…
But then there are companies like L.L.Bean. Although L.L.Bean is a retail company specializing in clothing and outdoor recreation equipment, it too is largely a marketing company with a significant mail-order, online, and retail presence around the world.
For those who are unfamiliar with L.L.Bean, it ranks among the top retailers in the world in customer satisfaction. And it’s the type of company that one would never associate with deceptive marketing practices. Instead, L.L.Bean relies on the honesty of its people and the integrity of its products.
If a representative says a product will arrive within two days, then you can take that delivery date to the bank. If the catalogue claims that all products are guaranteed to give 100% satisfaction in every way, you can count on it. There’s no need to look for a disclaimer or fine print that shields L.L.Bean from responsibility.
Unless you’re a magician, deception is bad for business. Commit to honesty, openness, and candor in all your customer dealings.
Gimmicks are fine—just not at the expense of customers’ trust. Besides, your customers probably have all the steak knives they really need.
I welcome all questions, comments, bouquets and brickbats.