Even a chimp can write code

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Talking with customers

I learnt an important lesson about customer engagement and marketing today. Our priorities are sadly misplaced.

It was noon and Ashley was craving Mexican food. It seemed Tacos al Carbone were calling her name. She leafed through the yellow pages and hunted down the number for the restaurant down the street. The Tacos al Carbone entree comes with rice, beans, salsa and two tacos with your choice of chicken or beef. So Ashley called the restaurant and asked for the entree with one chicken taco and the other beef. The woman on the other side of the line said "No, you can't have that". Ashley thought maybe the woman misunderstood what she wanted, so she re-phrased her order. Again, the reply was a cold "No". She was told she could either have the entree with 2 chicken tacos or 2 beef tacos. Or she'd have to buy two separate entrees.


Apparently, this was one of those universal rules that exist without good reason, like "Don't ever use the phone in a doctor's office" or grammar.

Now my wife would have paid a few dollars more for a meal of her choice, rather than settle for something like this. But she wouldn't buy two entrees when all she wanted was one. For that matter, if they'd filled her in on why they couldn't fulfil her order, she'd have understood. Nothing of that sort happened. She said thanks but no thanks and hung up. Then without batting an eyelid, she took her business elsewhere.

All this time I was there, listening in. When it was over, I congratulated her on her discernment. Then it hit me.

There is a lesson in this for all of us. Give your customers what they want. Not what you want them to have. We love the food at that restaurant (name withheld to protect the guilty). But good food, a good brand and a posting in the yellow pages isn't nearly enough. The first law in customer relations is to treat your customers like adults. We should be talking with our customers, not to them. Our answers to their questions must be "Why not?" instead of "Why?". Marketing and evangelizing isn't about the colorful brochures or the billboards, nor about giving talks or doing demos or writing white papers. It is about connecting with our customers. It is about having a clue. It is about looking for opportunities. It is about caring.

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  • And what are you going to do when you have a group of big corps that represent, for example, one million customers, demanding features that dictates how the billion or so other customers (including those few who paid you through purchase of a computer) use their purchase?

    Now I hope you got a clue of what I am referring to here otherwise insert a chimp insult here ;-)

    Unbelievable? Yes it is, I hope MS has some serious paper on that the corporations are paying fully financing those features, and not the other billion people who may think it is up to them to choose what they do with their purchase.

    PS. I doubt computer buyers have to read any license agreements through before using their Vista computer, so try not think of legal BS.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at October 10, 2005 at 1:46 PM  

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