Thursday, December 9, 2010

Howard’s Inner Circle, No. 23: “Customer Crazy Glue”

I first saw it when I was with Practical Accountant. Tax research companies began purchasing tax prep software companies followed by the acquisition of those companies specializing in payroll software and CRM systems. The acquisitions allowed for suite offerings. The suite business model is based on the idea that it is more difficult for a somewhat unhappy customer to leave if they are getting more than one service or product from the company. The problems for suite customers are that quite often the new product isn’t best-of breed, the acquiring company has little prior in-depth understanding of the new product, and integration with existing products is slow and often poorly done.

This isn’t the only form of “customer crazy glue” that I detest. There are the customer loyalty programs in which you are urged to join, some of which have an annual fee. An example is those offered by airlines which rate passengers on miles flown to determine the different baseline of service they will give to a flyer. It reminds me a bit of the different passenger classes as portrayed on the Titanic in movies.

My least favorite “customer crazy glue” is the customer support offered by technology companies which are marketed so beautifully when you purchase the product. You soon find out this support is outsourced, that a charge is often incurred, and a good portion of the call, which takes numerous prompts and a long wait, is consumed with a pushy sales pitch for an additional product that you supposedly really need.

Perhaps I hate this “customer crazy glue” retention because I grew up working in my father’s store where a customer didn’t have any special ties encouraging them to come back. It was a time of “The customer is always right.” So when someone complained that a mop they purchased disintegrated on its first use we would replace it at no cost with a cotton mop and explain that disintegration probably occurred because they use used bleach and that wouldn’t happen with this, a cotton mop.

Customers aren’t always right but they also aren’t fools and they will become more aware of customer glue traps and how to avoid them. It will be interesting to watch the marketplace reaction to this.

© 2010
The above may be reproduced in full if that fact is stated and Howard Wolosky is credited as the author.

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