My blog is about exchanging ideas and best practices on all things marketing and communications related. I'm interested in your thoughts, feedback, additions, arguments and point of view.
Saturday, October 27, 2007
When customer loyalty from Bell Mobility fails to Connect.
Before you read my story, here's the lesson in it - sometimes it's better to do nothing – to not make a decision to buy something new or trade in the old. Sometimes doing nothing is a reward in itself.
Such was the case this past week, when I was thinking of upgrading my cell phone to one of the “mobile” varieties from Bell Canada. You see I’ve owned the same one for 5 years and it basically does one thing very well – make phone calls. But getting a mobile, on the other hand – opens me up to a new world of digital possibilities.
“I’m ready for this,” I convinced myself – a mobile lets me do everything – download music, take photos, text friends, check my LinkedIn and Facebook accounts, watch podcasts – even be at the ready to shoot video just in case... of escaping circus elephants rampaging down Yonge Street. I imagined taking that esteemed position on YouTube – owner of the most downloaded video in history. I can’t wait any longer, I thought – where do I go to sign up...?!
The timing was perfect too. I just received a friendly letter from Bell Mobility telling me I had been a “valued” customer for more than 5 years – 3 of these without a contract to bind us together. It seemed because I had chosen to be with them, they recognized this and were about to reward my loyalty big time.
The letter went on -“we would like to thank you for your business.... so we’ll give you a credit worth up to $250 as a bonus renewal offer towards the purchase of a new phone or PDA when you renew your service agreement...“thank you for choosing us.”
Sweet, I thought - I can get a really cool mobile for next to nothing and gladly surrender to a three year term with the beavers until the next generation of mobiles comes along.
Well, here’s what happened.
I went into a nearby Bell World retail store, letter in hand, and was met by a pleasant sales person named Wanda. I told Wanda I was ready to make my move to mobile, and even had a $250 bonus credit as a renewal offer to work with. I explained I’d been a loyal customer for five years and just got this special letter saying as much. “Wanda, I said - only show me the best and latest of everything you’ve got. I’m ready!”
“Well actually,” Wanda said, “the price you see beside each model is the price you pay – we’ve already factored in the discount – the $250 credit in this letter anyone can get.” Oh I see. So I asked Wanda to check my account. Surely there’s a notation saying how loyal a customer I have been and to give this golden apple whatever he asks for....
She looked up my details and paused...hmmm, she said, slightly puzzled, “it says here DO NOT RENEW.” “What? I asked, what does that mean?”
“Well, she explained, you have a really good mobile rate we don’t offer anymore, so when we get you in here and sell you a new mobile phone, we put you into a “current (read: more expensive) rate plan.”
My hopes of going mobile were quickly fading like a weak transmission signal....
With either of us not ready to give up, Wanda took me through the latest models, asking lots of good questions in order to point me towards a model and monthly plan that we thought would suit my needs.
I thought to myself, well I’m already here, Wanda is helpful, I love this mobile model she showed me, and it’s not that much more a month – I’ll just suck it up and get it.
We made our way back to the register when she dropped another one. “I wanted to mention that you’ll also have to pay a $35 ‘upgrade fee’ because you’re getting a new model.”
Call me crazy, Wanda, but can we summarize here?
1. The $250 bonus renewal offer I received is available to anyone – not just us “valuable clients?”
2. I still have to pay the net cost of the phone ($49.99 for the model I wanted)?
3. If I do get a new mobile, I have to go into a more expensive monthly rate plan?
4. I have to pay an upgrade fee on top of the $49.99 for the phone?
5. I'm a valued client of Bell Mobility - a loyal customer?
How sad - I did understand all this correctly. Oh sure, I could call an 800 number, wait on hold for 20 minutes and then complain to the customer rep on the other side of the world that I feel totally taken advantage of. But why bother? If they don’t get it... why bother??
I have two points of view here on how I’m feeling after this experience.
As a Marketer
I see the revenue and profitability potential with this program. It probably went something like this: Generate a list of active GTA subscribers with expired contracts. Send them a letter with a $250 phone credit as incentive to drive them in store. Then upgrade their model and monthly plan.
I’m sure the ROI on this program is through the roof – the DM piece was less than $1 and the lifetime value of my business is in the thousands of dollars.
What is the effect on long term customer satisfaction with these types of programs? Did anyone really scrutinize the offer copy and come to the conclusion that it was in fact no offer at all? What's the cost of losing a high value customer (me) to their bottom line?
As a Customer
I feel like I was tricked into coming into the store – duped by a letter implying I was entitled to a reward for my loyalty that didn’t even exist. I feel cynical about what it means to be called a "valued customer" and what a "bonus renewal" offer really means.
That day, my goodwill towards this company dried up quicker than fresh rain on a desert floor. So I did absolutely nothing – I walked out of Bell World with my old, trusted and reliable cellular, knowing that every month I get a bill for services that I’m paying less than Bell Canada wants me to.
I guess I do get a little reward after all.