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How to instantly alienate your customers

14th Dec 2020
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When it comes to building a strong customer relationship it’s a fair bet that communication and product are two of your key ingredients. And it’s also fair bet that you put a lot of work into those two areas; working with suppliers and others to ensure that you design a product mix which best fits your customer needs before marketeers and others craft adverts and product descriptions to entice and inform.

So why is it that something as simple as an internet search can instantly undo all of your good work and alienate potential customers? Now I know that this year has been unusual with product manufacture and delivery being impacted by Covid. And I appreciate that there are products which you would like to stock but are unable to do so in the current climate. But is there really any excuse not only to continue advertising these products but to promote them so that they appear towards the top of any internet search?

Most customers are reasonable people. They understand that product availability varies and in a world in which so much has been unusual this year they are more likely than ever to accept supply chain disruptions. But what they are less likely to accept is the time which they waste in finding a product advertised online, clicking through to it only to then discover that it is out of stock. In fact the only thing guaranteed to make them more annoyed with the company is a scenario in which they order and pay for the product, only to be advised several days later that the order has been cancelled due to lack of availability.

And yes you could blame the supply chain. But why are you advertising products that not only aren’t available, they are not even being manufactured? That scenario happened recently to a colleague who after years of buying the same product through the same company found their latest order had been cancelled and refunded. Upon investigation they found that the product line had been discontinued but was still showing on the website.

Promote the success of the company

Company directors have a legal duty [1] to promote the success of their company. This includes fostering the company’s business relationships with suppliers, customers and others as well as working to maintain the company’s reputation for high standards and business conduct. That doesn’t just mean putting out nice press releases or detailed annual reports. What it does mean is ensuring that every aspect of the organisation aligns to deliver great customer and stakeholder outcomes. Ensuring that the products advertised are available for sale comes under this banner; particularly as anything else could be seen to be misleading advertising, potentially leaving the company open to investigation.

Why spend all your time working to build up your organisation, only for one aspect to badly let you down? For your customers to trust you, you have to be clear and honest with them. If that means taking a little extra time to ensure that the products you advertise are genuinely available then surely that is a price worth paying.


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