Killer Customer Service, or Customer-Killer Service?

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A friend of mine has been a member of a particular airline’s frequent flier program (we will call this major US airline, AirlineX) for a number of years. He even has a credit card linked to that account to help accrue points. This friend had earned enough miles for a free trip to Europe but hadn’t been able to fly AirlineX for awhile since his company now required him to fly the cheapest option (which this airline never was). Knowing that his hard-earned points would expire soon, he called the airline to see what could be done to retain them. AirlineX told him that he had to fly a “qualifying flight” in order to retain his points. Unable to do that due to the aforementioned company policy (and with no other potential trips on the horizon), my friend lost his accrued points (and a future flight to Europe).

Now, this happens all the time; that is the part of the formula for points-based loyalty programs. Keep customers coming back so they will continue to earn points and hopefully continue to spend money with the business.

The real pain in this case is the monthly emails that my friend receives from the airline. Each month, AirlineX sends an email showing how many frequent flier points he has (or at this point, doesn’t have). This is most likely intended to help the airline stay top-of-mind with the customer and gently encourage them to book their next flight with the airline. However, in this case, the monthly email only serves as a reminder that this particular customer doesn’t have any more points with AirlineX – and that hurts.

Customers are watching the actions of your company. Every email they receive, commercial they view, social media site they “like”, and direct mail piece they read (or not) affects their view of your business and their overall customer service experience. It may be something that seems small to your organization which pushes the customer out the door.

What do your marketing communications say about your company? Are they helping your customers to buy more from you? Or are they painful reminders of a damaged relationship, resulting in customer-killer service?

(Photo credit: marco)

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