The 10Principles of Open Business provide a framework for rebuilding the trust so many brands and organisations have thrown away in the over-zealous pursuit of profit/cost.
What we know is when they destroyed the trust they had (through exploited suppliers, one-size-fits-all marketing and anti-customer service) they also destroyed the shareholder value they thought they were creating.
Today’s businesses are waking to the advantages of treating their customers better – of becoming customer-led Open Businesses. They do this because they know without trust their brands have little value.
Those that are most successful at this have recognised something you will find defined in the chapter on Trust in The 10 Principles – that trust is a reciprocal thing. We don’t want trust of the ‘you can trust us to be the cheapest’ kind. We want trust of the ‘we have your best interest at heart’ kind.
To be trusted you have to trust.
Amazon and John Lewis – about the most trusted names in retail these days in the UK – both provide a similar case study when it comes to refunds (an ever more critical part of the retail mix in an increasingly online environment in which distance selling regulations apply to everything bought online in the UK).
Both companies give you your money back. Take John Lewis. I took a six month old leather bag back. The zip had broken and the strap had all but snapped. I had no receipt. But I knew it was a John Lewis bag. I took it back and had the current list price of the bag (£145) zapped straight back on to my credit card.
Which I immediately reciprocated. I went straight to the bag department and bought another bag. I know that if I have a similar problem, I’ll get similar treatment in future.
Amazon: Got a problem? They will refund you and THEN ask you to return the item. They trust you. So you trust them.
Both have thought about the problem not from an ‘efficiency’ perspective – but from a customer effectiveness one.
Today you must either offer wow or easy. If you are really good you wow by being easy (Amazon, John Lewis).
You can wow through really low price, or really high quality. Do this and you may get away with not being the easiest in the market to trade with. But if you can’t differentiate yourself significantly through price or quality then easy is where you have to aim – and where you have to win.
I wonder how many high street retailers can really argue they are as easy to trade with as Amazon? They don’t offer higher quality. They rarely offer lower price.
How can they restore the trust and make themselves easier – the first step may be to start trusting their customers more. For many that will require them to know their customers better.
I’ve had a few run-ins with one famous High Street retailer in the last few months. It’s becoming a bit of a running joke in our house. Mrs C laughed after I recounted my latest call with The M&S executive office and said: “They must hate it when they know it’s you,”
I only wish they had the customer systems in place to know my past record when I do contact them. I’d love it if they hated to see me coming. They’d know how much in debit with me they already are and might make an effort not to make things worse.
Sadly, every new issue I have with them is like starting from scratch.
For M&S watchers - here's my latest complaint. I bought some trousers online. Colour wasn't quite what I was expecting (Less 'neutral' more, pensioner beige). So I returned them to a store. Thinking M&S was the bastion of easy exchange, I took nothing more than my order number with me. That should access everything they have on record about the transaction, I figured.
Nope, in store they can't check your online order number against anything, it seems. Now, instead of trusting their customer and just giving me the money back (as they would have done had they had the receipt) they could only give me a credit voucher. There was nothing in store that day that caught my eye so I took the voucher home to use at my leisure online.
When I did go to buy something online with it I discovered it could ONLY be used in store. In other words a purchase I had made online had been converted into a voucher I could not use online.
I rang and asked for it to be converted to an e-voucher. Computer said no. Even though I have all the reference numbers this could only happen if I sent the voucher back to them first. Funnily enough, if they don't trust me, I'm disinclined to trust them.
So I was left with a useless voucher (as least until the next time I went into one of their stores) instead of the goods I had paid for online.
That is how not to wow, how not to be easy - and how to illustrate the decline of a once great customer service brand...