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Sunday, June 06, 2010

Just last week I decided to buy a new cell phone.  Finding the right phone these days can be a real chore.  When I was in the Verizon store, it was so packed that I could hardly hear myself talk.  When the salesman approached me I was actually relieved and glad to get a little help.  After he asked me what I was looking for he showed me some phones and explained the various plans.

Since I'm online pretty much 24/7 I was looking for something with a good web browser. He strongly encouraged me to purchase a particular phone.  When so called "experts" make a recommendation, we tend to listen.  After doing a little research online and comparing plans I went ahead and ordered the device.  When I first got it I was pretty excited.  I mean, who wouldn't be.  Getting a new phone is like buying new car.  It's hard to dismiss that "new" feeling you get when you try it for the first time.

In just a couple of days, my enthusiasm waned.  The phone was heavy, didn't allow me to complete some simple tasks easily, and didn't stay charged for more than a few hours.  None-the-less, I spent an arm and a leg to get this phone so I figured that I should learn to live with it.

Then I was having dinner with a friend and he said, "Why didn't you get the [name of phone]?"  I told him the whole story and how the rep in the store pointed me to the one I purchased.  My friend said, "Call them up and get a new phone."  I was reluctant at first, after all I was the one who chose the original phone in the first place.  But then I reminded myself that I should have what was going to make me happy.  Besides, I'd have to live with it everyday for the next 2 years.

So I called up Verizon and ordered a new phone.  Of course it cost more money, plus I have to pay a restocking fee, and not to mention but it's back ordered too.  Even so, it was the right thing to do.  So why didn't I make the choice to begin with?  I think the question is really more about the influence of a referral.  If I had dinner with my friend before buying the phone, I'd likely have made a different selection the first time.  The fact of the matter is that marketing can do a great job but can never live up to the value of a personal referral.

What does this mean for marketers?  It means that in addition to promotion, we must also focus on creating an EXCELLENT customer experience.  What people say about you and how likely they are to actually recommend your business or product is what matters most!

When was the last time that you experienced your business as a customer?  Encourage customer feedback and continually evaluate the customer experience.  Don't be afraid to hear good news and bad.  You want to encourage testimonials and referrals if you want your business to grow.


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