Halfords: how the ‘in-store’ customer experience is limiting the effectiveness of sound marketing


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Halfords makes me personalised offer

Halfords sent me a personalised letter reminding me that my car is due for an MOT next month:

To make this happen takes time, effort and money. The folks in the autocentre have spent time entering in the details of my car and the work that they have done on it. The folks in marketing/IT have set up a process where they pull MOT information from the government owned database. And use that information to generate a personalised marketing offer. I know a little about direct marketing and this direct mail offer hits the right buttons: timeliness, relevant information, attractive offers, emphasis on the deal, coupon…………

Why is the marketing investment is wasted on me? The customer experience!

First the positives: Halfords is a national brand; the local autocentre is only five minutes drive; when I have rung the phone is answered promptly and courteously; Alex the chap at the service desk who deals with customers is great; the autocentre parking is ample; the autocentre is modern/clean; and the prices are competitive. Yet Halfords marketing investment is wasted in my case, I will not be taking up the offer. Why? Because of my experiences.

I have used Halfords autocentres twice and each time I experienced disappointment. Once the work took so much longer than I had been led to believe. On another occasion Halfords failed to fix the problem which they led me to believe that they could fix and would fix. This got me thinking about the competence of the autocentres. This fear was confirmed when a small garage (one man) in the middle of nowhere fixed the problem that Halfords failed to fix. And an AA mechanic (trusted brand) told me never to use Halfords because the mechanics are not up to the job: “They don’t know what they are doing!” were his exact words.

The ‘strategic’ lessons for the Customer Experience discipline

If the value to the customer comes from the chain as a whole performing well (not failing) then there is no point in strengthening only some of the links. Put differently, there is no point in investing in and strengthening one or more touchpoints if you do not invest in and strengthen ALL the touchpoints that matter to the customer. Taking Halfords as an example, no matter how much Halfords spends on personalised direct marketing, the effectiveness (ROI) of this marketing investment will be limited by all the other ‘touchpoints’ that matter to customers e.g. perceived competency of mechanics, what influential persons (customers, trusted persons/organisations) say about Halfords mechanics, the turnaround time…….

Customer Experience practitioners and the Customer Experience discipline has to get the importance and nature of chain linked systems. And they have to come up with an intelligent response to dealing with the particularly difficult hurdles/obstacles chain link systems throw up. Until that is done, investments in improving the Customer Experience will be ‘hit and miss’: about as effective as tossing a coin. I will deal with chain links systems and their significance to Customer Experience in a follow up post.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Maz Iqbal
Experienced management consultant and customer strategist who has been grappling with 'customer-centric business' since early 1999.


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