Do I want a Relationship? Or an Experience?


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On Tuesday evening I had to go to PCWorld. For the first time in 13 years my computer had become infected. I could receive e-mails, but not send them.

IT said it was “cabbaged”, which, I believe, is a technical term. They told me I should get a laptop so that I could work from home. I don’t like the idea of “working from home” – I can’t even watch television and hold a conversation with my wife at the same time, so I’d have no chance at “working” and “talking”.

But the price was right. Research had led me to what was probably a loss-leader, particularly when discounted as a bundle with Office 365. And so I found myself in an empty car park at 6:30 with what I needed written on a scruffy piece of paper.

The assistant said she’d check if it was in stock, which was a surprise, as the heavily discounted loss-leader that I’d chosen is the mainstay of the current PCWorld advertising campaign. But back she came, with the little cardboard box. And then the selling started. “What will sir be using the computer for?” Oooerr. “Stuff” I said. “Will you be gaming on it?” She asked. Well, I am getting quite good at Poker on Facebook, but the speed is / was excellent on my old XP, so that shouldn’t be a problem. “No”, said I.

“What sort of anti-virus will you be using?” she asked. Look, I come from Yorkshire, I’ve been careful (and lucky) for 13 years and there’s an armful of free antivirus programs on AND the new computer comes with Norton or MacAfee or Whatever. “It’s OK,” I said, “I’m in a hurry”.

“Do you need a VAT receipt?” She asked. Was this the opportunity to walk out without paying? “Yes please” said I. “Please take a seat over in the business section and I’ll be back in a minute”.

There were still no other customers in the store. I wanted to get home. I didn’t want to start a relationship with this girl or anyone else at PCWorld who could up-sell, cross-sell or turn me into a net promoter. I didn’t sit down. I got edgy inside, and hovered.

A long minute went by. “Don’t the till receipts have your VAT number on?” I enquired. “Yes they do”. I turned and walked over to the check-out, hoping she’d follow (they were unmanned and, unlike the supermarkets, they don’t have an unexpected item in the bagging area – sorry, I mean “self-service check-out” section.

“Can I have your name and address, please?”

“Why?” (I was sure that the thought bubble of ‘I don’t want a relationship and I just want to go home’ must be visible in flashing lights by now)

“It’s for your guarantee.” Well, obviously.

“And your e-mail address.”

“Why?” This was starting to feel invasive.

“In case there’s a recall.”

Having given all my details, I was then asked to pay.

“£448.00 please.”

“No it isn’t”

“Why do you say that?”

“Because two hours ago it was advertised as £428.00 on the internet, as a ‘bundle’, the laptop and a year’s subscription to Microsoft 365.”

Another lump of time went by.

“Oh yes, I’ve found it.” I’ve found the correct price. Oh goody. That was kind of the system to allow this nice lady to find the right price.

Now I really don’t want to have a relationship with you.

The drive home flashed by. My mind was racing. I needed to find a way, with whatever the new e-mail system was that I was going to install (just to let you know I’ve found the cloud-based Outlook to be awful and am quite pleased with Mozilla Thunderbird, but three days in and I’m running both) to block anything, and I mean anything, from PCWorld. And I was thinking about the difference between B2B, where trust and partnering and relationships and people are all par for the course, and B2C where there’s a point of sale and ease of doing business and I’d rather have bought via the wonderweb but I needed the new computer NOW.

My company, InfoQuest, specialises in B2B satisfaction surveys that analyse the customer relationship. We don’t touch B2C, and that evening I was so pleased that we don’t. I’d seen what a complex, emotional experience it can be spending ten minutes in an otherwise empty store.

John Coldwell
From an operations background, John's attitude towards B2B customer satisfaction surveys is that they must be useful. Interesting doesn't interest him. You should be able to grab the feedback by the scruff of the neck and do something with it. For the past 15 years John has been running InfoQuest's full-day senior-team post-survey workshops around the world.


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