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Creative Career Path

The Case of the Candid Customer2009.07.01

    Customers love to complain. When I listen to people complaining about products or services, my marketing mindset sets about taking mental notes. Customer conversations could so easily be converted into practical marketing plans and advice that would be worth millions to the companies that they are complaining about. 

    Taking a taxi in Tokyo, the driver was a talkative friendly native of Kyoto, but he had few friendly words for the manufacturer of the new car he had recently purchased. This could have been any car maker. It happened to have been Nissan.

    ''I worked overtime and finally saved enough to buy a new car,'' explained the taxi driver, ''a one-box model from Nissan.'' 


    ''My wife has a driver's license, but she has never driven a one-box car, and she was worried about driving on narrow streets in a large car where she isn't used to the shape. I called a Nissan driving school to see if they had any courses for driving a one-box car.'' 


    ''They told me, No!'' 

    ''I asked them if my wife could take driving lessons using our new Nissan one-box car. And they said, 'No, we don't offer special classes. You have to use one of our standard models.' Can you believe that?!'' 

    ''I've got no use for a company that won't teach you how to use their own products.'' 


    Those words could be gold if they fell on the right ears at Nissan, but they won't. The taxi driver isn't talking to Nissan, and he said that next time he will check more carefully about the company's product education services before he makes another big purchase. 


    Car sales are falling in Japan, as young people are less attracted to the idea of owning a vehicle, and the shrinking economy doesn't favor large purchases. Under the circumstances, it seems to me that car makers should be making efforts to keep their customers as happy as possible. No doubt they are making efforts. 


    The important thing is whether those efforts are making their customers happy. 


    Customers have three things which manufacturers should pay close attention to. Money to spend, an opinion with attitude, and a choice of who to buy from. 


    The taxi driver went on to say that he was a Mac user, and a loyal Mac fan for life. The reason was not just because of Apple's excellent products. He was a fan because Apple provides excellent education on every aspect of their products and applications. 


    What are people afraid of when they make a large purchase? That the product won’t live up to it’s promise? That it may have hidden defects? That it will prove to be a poor investment? Some of these fears can be allayed with warranties, trial runs, test drives, and sampling the product before you buy. The real fear is that once the sale is made the customer will be ignored or forgotten. 


    Jay Conrad Levinson, the Father of Guerrilla Marketing, says that companies should invest 60% of their marketing budget on current and past customers, 30% on specific prospects in your target market, and 10% on the universe of potential customers at large. This is the reverse of the ratio practiced by many companies, which spend the majority of their marketing budget on brand or image advertising, some effort targeting specific prospects, and a smaller amount courting current and past customers.

    When was the last time you were contacted by a company after the sale, asking if you were happy with your purchase, offering a surprise bonus, a free upgrade, or a special discount on future purchases? This is so rare that any one of these things can create favorable feelings that lead to brand loyalty. 

    But there is another way to create long term loyalty, and that is by providing ongoing education to your customers that is engaging, enjoyable, and entertaining. That will keep the customer coming back, because it convinces them that you care as much or more after the sale as before. 


    There are many ways to do this. You can conduct webcasts or teleseminars, or provide tutorials and tips. You can provide coaching or consultation, or conduct classes to help people understand, effectively use, and enjoy your products or services. These can be offered to customers for free, or for a nominal membership fee. 

    This process not only attracts loyal customers, but also motivates employees and attracts talented people who want to work for such a company. 


    Teaching engages trust, especially when it is offered after the sale has been made. The word educate comes from the Latin word educare, which means “to draw out and lead forth.” This has profound meaning for companies which realize the power of education to attract and keep customers. Customer service has to go beyond handling customer claims. It should prevent such complaints from happening in the first place! 


    Companies with an excellent educational follow up program find that loyal customers don’t mind paying more, because the product or service is worth more as a result. No matter how you measure it, the value of a loyal lifetime customer far exceeds the gain made from any single purchase.

    William Reed

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    Article Writer

    William Reed

    William Reed is a renowned author-speaker who coaches physical finesse and flexible focus for a creative career path. A certified Master Trainer in Guerrilla Marketing and 7th-dan in Aikido, he combines practical wisdom of East and West to help you learn personal branding at the Entrepreneurs Creative Edge.

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