Don’t Market During Customer Issues

Are you annoying your customers – and then trying to sell to them?

Better customer experience (CX) leads to more sales. We all know this intuitively, but the Temkin Group has proved it empirically.

In ROI of Customer Experience, 2016 they found that for a $1 billion firm, a modest improvement in CX results in a 3-year increase of $282 million in sales to existing customers. That’s not including the $374 million in improved retention and $167 million in other revenue.

But it seems that some companies aren’t patient enough to wait for these sales. Instead, they want to be selling while your customer is actively having a problem. I know, crazy, right? Why would you consider the moment when your customer is most frustrated as a selling opportunity?

But it’s happening. And maybe at your company.

Consider the following scenario. An active issue is going on, and it’s been escalating. Your client is getting frustrated. Then they receive an email from your company – is it a resolution? No. It’s an offer to buy an upgrade or a service plan. A communication completely disconnected to their current problem. It’s a slap in the face: “You want me to buy something new from you, when you can’t even make your current product work?”

All this does is frustrate your client. And it’s the unfortunate service person who’s just trying to resolve the problem who bears the brunt of their wrath. Not only did they not initiate the ill-timed offer – they probably didn’t even know this email was being sent.

Are you doing this to your customer? If so, you’re not alone. As Alexander Hirsch, digital marketing lead for the World Economic Forum, and Tom Smith, product marketing manager for Salesforce Marketing Cloud EMEA, report in 6 Tips for the Perfect Customer Journey, “If a customer is unhappy and opens a customer service case you don’t want to be marketing to them. ‘Suppressing marketing when a service case is open is pretty obvious but it doesn’t happen very often,’ Smith said. ‘You do want to have that option to put your foot on the brakes and exclude that customer from the marketing,’ Hirsch said.”

All too often, though, our organizational silos get in the way of doing this. Marketing has no idea that the client has an active service issue, so continues to send offers. Whose fault is it?

Yours. Marketing has no way to know who’s currently going through an issue. It’s not part of their data set. No, it’s up to you. You need to reach out and identify active severe issues, so these customers can be suppressed from the marketing feed. Not only will your customers thank you – your support personnel will, too.

Another situation is less common, but far more egregious.

Most companies have removed the annoying “Your call is very important to us” loop that plays while customers are on hold. This is good. Nobody believed them, anyway. Especially once they hear that message five times while waiting for their call to be answered.

Unfortunately, some companies have apparently decided that customers waiting to resolve a problem are ideal prospects for new sales. They pepper a customer with sales ads while they wait on hold to resolve their problem.

Is there any worse prospect for a new sale than a frustrated customer facing a problem?

Yes. A frustrated customer facing a problem who is currently stuck on hold.

Why do companies do this? Because it’s easy. It may even seem like a good idea. We have this captive customer – let’s tell them about all our products! If only one out of 100 buys, it still looks like a win. Because you can track this sale. But can you track the frustrate customers who never buy from you again?

A few months back I purchased a new Samsung S7. In general, I like Samsung. They make great products. But this experience was ridiculous.

I had trouble transferring data from my S5 to my S7, so called their service line. I was on hold for over 45 minutes (itself an obvious problem). During that time, I heard the same offer to upgrade to the newest Samsung phone over 20 times! It told me all about the features of this new phone that I had already purchased. Twenty times I was given an irrelevant offer, and I had no choice but to listen to it.

So, what can you do to ensure you’re not annoying your customers?

  1. Get together with your marketing peers to agree to stop sending promotions to customers with severe issues. Send a list of such cases whenever a new campaign is in planning.
  2. While you’re at it, send the campaigns out to your support staff. You’d be surprised at how rarely this is done.
  3. Conduct an audit for your hold “music.” If there are sales campaigns, ask yourself, “Is this the experience we really want for customers facing a problem?”

Only by doing this can you set yourself up for the additional revenue that comes from an improved customer experience.

About the author

Jim Tincher is the Principal Consultant at Heart of the Customer, a Customer Experience and Customer Service consulting company. Jim has more than 20 years of experience in driving customer experience from small business to Fortune 500 companies. Jim’s Customer Experience expertise has led to engagements as far-reaching as developing consumer tests at Best Buy, creating a Customer Insights capability at UnitedHealth Group, and consulting with clients ranging from global fast food companies to utilities to international manufacturing and service companies.

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