Going the extra mile is generally a good thing – until you leave your customer abandoned in an unknown country

A little while ago I wrote about how the dealership that sold me my car some years back had called me and said I could have a software upgrade on the car free of charge.  It would, I was told, reduce the level of noxious whatnots that go into the atmosphere, and would take an hour.  A free coffee was also on offer should I require one.

So I said yes, and I must say I felt good about the company’s offer.  Which is why I wrote a little piece about going the extra mile and offering to do more than expected, and how good that can make the customer feel.

But there can be a downside, because if the offer doesn’t come up to scratch, what should have been a feelgood activity will now turn into a negative experience – meaning you would have been better off never making the offer in the first place.

And this is exactly what happened to me.

I took up the offer of making my car less polluting than it is, drove it to the dealership, and sat down in the waiting area with my laptop.   And at first all was fine – the broadband worked and I could write away.  But then….

After half an hour I fancied a coffee, but was told the coffee machine was being serviced. True, they offered an instant, but I’m a bit picky on my coffee, so I stayed on the water.

An hour passed.  On 90 minutes a lady came along, apologised for the delay, but said they were now washing my car for me (a nice twist – I hate washing the car) and the vehicle would be ready shortly.

On the two hour mark another lady came to me and said very briefly that the upgrade had failed, and they would be sending the results to Mercedes in Germany to request information on what to do next.

And with that she walked off.

I had wasted an hour driving to and from the garage, but I’d had my car cleaned for free and I’d worked while there so it wasn’t really a disaster. But it felt bad. It was annoying. I was annoyed.

Mercedes could have redeemed the situation by writing to me that day to apologise and to assure me that they would let me know what the cause was. Maybe a word saying this issue was very unusual would have helped too. And so would an update phone call.

But they haven’t been in touch. No apology, no explanation, no re-booking, nothing.

Thus, as a result, instead of feeling impressed by Mercedes I am left rather annoyed. Their whole exercise has been negative.

And my point is – if something goes wrong, give that customer all your attention, offer whatever it takes, apologise like mad, and do anything needed to get that customer to feel ok about you again.

Because if you don’t, that customer is quite likely to start going around telling other people that really, you are not a company to deal with.

Mistakes do happen and things do go wrong. Admit it, apologise, but then most of all, stay in touch.

Tony Attwood

PS: If you’d like to catch up on a few of our recent thoughts on marketing, they are  published on our daily blog.  If you want to talk about anything to do with marketing to schools please do call 01604 880 927.

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