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Word of mouth is a powerful marketing tool and it has become even more effective now that social media means that a single statement can reach hundreds, thousands or even millions of people.
For that reason, companies need to work very hard to ensure that their levels of customer support and service are maintained to high standards. Although many consumers are slow to praise, most are quick to complain when they're given the short end of the stick.
I always make an effort to spread the word when I'm given good service and I'll also often contact the head-office of companies or franchised operations whenever I find that I've received what I consider to be excellent service.
You should try doing this yourself, you might be surprised the benefits it can sometimes deliver. A few years ago I emailed Robert Harris HQ to let them know that the local branch was (at the time) providing stunningly good service and product. As a result of this I received a personal thank-you from the local manager and was upgraded to "VIP" status and got a discount whenever I bought anything there. That was unexpected but very welcome.
However, as a business owner from time to time, I'm also very much aware that when things aren't going too well, I need to know so as to "put things right" asap.
So now let me tell you about my experiences of yesterday...
As most regular readers will know, I'm not a rich man. In fact I rarely have more than pocket-change left over at the end of the month once I've paid my bills.
That's fine by me. I live every day as if it's my last and don't place any emphasis on being "asset rich" or accumulating large lumps of money... it's just not a priority for me.
So, when it does come time to fork out some significant cash for a major purchase, I'm pretty prudent and cautious. However, I also believe in supporting local businesses and the community in which I choose to live.
For that reason, for quite some time I've been buying my whiteware and other stuff from a local branch of Appliance Plus here in Tokoroa. To date they have given me excellent service and "satisfactory" prices. Perhaps I should explain what "satisfactory" means.
Appliance Plus are seldom the cheapest but they have repeatedly respected my loyalty by offering a discount when I make a major purchase. This is more of a token than a real saving but it shows that they value my custom and appreciate that. It's also convenient to be able to shop in-store and get a better appreciation for the products involved.
So, when the wife told me we needed a new stove (yeah, the old one was here when we moved in a year ago and the oven is *so* bad that we've never dared use it) I figured I'd drop in to the local store and negotiate a deal. Apparently we also "must have" a new mattress... who knew they don't last forever?
The combined value of these purchases will probably come to over $3,000 so it's far from a trivial amount, at least for me. As a result of this, and the amount I've previously spent at this store, I expected I'd receive the same excellent customer support as before.
I was in for a shock!
The previous person we'd dealt with over the years is no longer at the store. Instead we got a very "middle management/sales" guy who was going for the hard-sell and was not at all "affable".
I suggested that a $50 discount would be nice on the stove that had a big $1499 sticker on it and that I'd been told previously by another member of staff that they'd have an electrician fit the power-cable/plug for free when it was delivered.
Well I could not believe my ears when I heard his reply.
Apparently there's just not enough margin on whiteware to allow this sort of discounting and if he was to cover the cost of the delivery and electrician fitting a plug then he'd be selling at a huge loss.
Well that's prime grade bullshirt right there! Retail margins on whiteware are pretty good and it seems he was totally unconcerned that we were loyal customers who'd been spending money at the store for well over a decade. What a jerk!
I told him that if he wouldn't haggle I'd buy elsewhere. He was totally blasé about the situation and simply turned away.
Seriously? Does this guy not understand that it costs anywhere from five to 25 times as much to gain a new customer than it does to keep an existing one?
He was prepared to throw away over $3K worth of sales, plus future purchases from this customer, simply because he wasn't interested in talking about a total discount of little more than 5 percent?
Even worse, he really thought I'd believe that the markup on a $1,500 stove was less than a hundred dollars?
But wait... it gets worse.
I went to the Appliance Plus website with a view to letting them know what had transpired because if this was *my* business, I'd not be happy about the way a customer was treated.
When I got to the site... I saw the very same stove that had been on the floor with a $1499 price sticker being advertised for the "every day low price" of $1,399.
I tried to telephone head office but I got the message that "all our sales people are busy right now" so I resorted to Facebook and left a message recounting my experience of today.
An hour or so later... the message is gone and I've received zero contact from the company.
Obviously their mantra is "Better to cover-up than fix-up our bad service".
Appliance Plus? They were great -- now I wouldn't touch them with a bargepole! I shall be spending my hard-earned cash elsewhere, telling anyone who wants to listen about the awful service I received, and won't be darkening their doorstep again.
How much did they lose by not engaging in discussion over a paltry five percent discount and treating a loyal customer like an idiot? Any guesses?
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