Don’t alienate your connected consumers

Paul Boag

Consumers have changed. They expect outstanding digital services and if you fail to deliver they will go elsewhere.

I want to tell you a story. It is not a fictional story. It is the real experience of a connected consumer. One of the new generation of consumers who have grown up with digital. Consumers who expect outstanding digital services. Consumers who value digital as much as the physical.

This particular connected consumer wanted to open a bank account. So like all connected consumers he asked his connections on social networks.

Unfortunately the response wasn’t great. Most of his connections were dissatisfied with their banks and were quick to warn our connected consumer off.

But there was one recommendation among the criticism – Barclays bank.

Our connected consumer did some research using comparion websites to confirm the recommendation. Based on this he decided to open an account with Barclays one Friday evening.

Our connected consumer visited the Barclays website and was pleased to discover he could open an account in 5 minutes. This was exactly the kind of simplicity he was looking for.

If you make a promise like this, ensure you deliver.
If you make a promise like this, ensure you deliver.

It took him a few moments to work out how to apply, but nothing too terrible. Once he started the process things went well until he came to enter his telephone number. For some reason it didn’t like his number.

Small errors such as this irritate connected consumers.
Small errors such as this irritate connected consumers.

For a moment he couldn’t work out what was wrong. Then he read the message. He shouldn’t have included spaces. Why was that a problem? Other sites didn’t seem to have an issue with this.

Then there was the opt out of spam options. He hated these. He never knew if he should tick the boxes or not. They were obviously trying to trick him into giving his permission to spam him. He wasn’t impressed with this at all.

Connected consumers are not stupid. They know when you are trying to trick them.
Connected consumers are not stupid. They know when you are trying to trick them.

Then came the killer blow. He entered his date of birth only to be informed that it was invalid. According to the website he had selected a date in the future.

A broken site will lead to a lost sale. Connected consumers won't use other options. They will just turn to a competitor.
A broken site will lead to a lost sale. Connected consumers won’t use other options. They will just turn to a competitor.

The site was obviously broken. In desperation our connected consumer turned to telephone support. Unfortunately this was not available on a Friday evening.

Eventually he spotted an option to ‘live chat’ with a representative. After what felt like an eternity our connected consumer spoke with a barclays representative in India. The response he received only angered him further.

If you are going to offer help options, make sure they are actually helpful.
If you are going to offer help options, make sure they are actually helpful.

Under normal circumstances our connected consumer would have given up at this point. But his social media connections had been so scathing of other banks that he didn’t feel like he had much choice.

In the end he decided to go into the bank. This was a huge hassle, but he wanted to get it done. So he looked at opening times for the nearest bank over the weekend.

If the digital option is unavailable, alternatives have to be just as accessible and easy.
If the digital option is unavailable, alternatives have to be just as accessible and easy.

Discovering the bank was closed over the weekend proved the last straw. Our connected consumer gave up on the whole idea. He would look again after the weekend.

The weekend came and went. On Thursday the following week he remembered he had to open a bank account. He returned to the Barclays website only to discover that it still would not accept his date of birth. It was at this point he gave up and went with a competitor. But not before he bad mouthed Barclays on social media.

The moral of the story

I tell this story not to criticise Barclays in particular but to show how consumers have changed. Gone are the days when you can expect consumers to bear with you while you have problems. The connected consumer expects exceptional customer service. They expect things to be easy and if they are not then you will lose their business.

This story highlights several characteristics of the connected consumer that are particularly worth noting.

  • They turn to their network on social media for recommendations.
  • They are not slow in expressing their dissatisfaction online.
  • They research products and services before making a selection.
  • They are savvy and all too aware when companies try to manipulate them.
  • They have little patience. Even small usability problems irritate them.
  • They hate turning to traditional methods when there should be a good digital alternative.
  • They expect problems with your service to be fixed promptly.
  • They want access to your services 24/7.

How do I know this? Because I was that connected consumer. I am part of a new generation of customer who expects more from traditional businesses. The new generation of digitally savvy companies have shown us a better way and we will not settle for less.

The world has changed. In the mass consumer era, the power lay with the companies. They produced their mass consumer goods and customers lined up to buy them. Today the power lies with the consumer. They have more choice than ever before as well as the power to make or break the reputation of a brand.

In such a world, the only way to survive is by providing an outstanding service both online and off. Are you doing that?

Boagworks

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