Experiential Marketing: Turning Lemons into Lemonade

By in Experiential Marketing,

Big retailers like Nordstrom and Zappos pride themselves on delivering an amazing customer experience.  They have teams of people working on specific experiential marketing opportunities that will differentiate and drive word-of-mouth referrals.  At Nordstrom for instance, they invested millions in untethered checkout tools that allow their sales staff to assist you from anywhere in the store vs. only at the traditional counter. 

Similarly, Zappos has made the return process so simple that you don’t think twice about placing an online order for fear that it might not fit.  A few clicks online and you can print out your free return mail label and get your refund.

But it doesn’t always required big technology investments to deliver a great customer experience.  One way to separate great experiential marketers from the rest is to see how they respond to a not-so-great customer experience.  Are they driven by rigid policies that don’t put the customer first, or will they go the extra mile to drive satisfaction?

Over the holidays I purchased two sets of luxury towels at Overstock.com.  They came promptly and seemed to be very high quality.  Just what I wanted–another satisfied customer.  Fast forward a couple months and a few spins through the washer/dryer and those same towels are beginning to fray.  Not expecting much in terms of response, I wrote a short message to Overstock.com suggesting they might consider more and better quality control on the items they choose to sell.  I also left a negative review on the specific item that is still available on their site to warn other potential towel shoppers that this is not their best option.  Despite having successfully purchased numerous items from this online retailer over the years, I had determined that I would likely not be using them in the future. Then I received my personalized message from Tayla B, a customer care representative, that changed my mind.

Several aspects of the response suggest that Overstock has taken time to develop experiential marketing procedures around poor customer experience aimed at surprising the customer and turning a negative experience into a cause for celebration.

First, I liked the fact that my customer care rep has a name.  Next I liked that she composed a very well-written note with a personal tone that showed empathy and concern with my experience.

“Thank you for contacting Overstock.com to let us know of the difficulty you experienced with your order. I am so sorry that the Opulence 750 GSM Turkish Cotton 6-piece Towel Sets is already falling apart after only a few months. I can understand your frustration since most towels will last years before they start fraying and I know I would be just as upset.”

The words, “I know I would be just as upset” are sheer marketing brilliance because she has made it clear that she doesn’t consider me a complainer, but rather a customer with a very real issue.  She then went on to encourage me to write a negative review as a warning to other potential customers!

“I completely agree with you and you should write the review for customers who may be interested in the set. They have the right to know and you would have appreciated the information before you placed the order. “

Finally, she shared that Overstock.com has a 30-day return policy, but that she wanted to make an exception.  No questions asked, no escalations to a manager, she just refunded my money and didn’t even ask me to send the items back.  When I wrote my original note, I hadn’t even considered the possibility of a refund.  Now, instead of bad-mouthing Overstock for poor quality control, I’m blogging about them and telling all my friends what great service they provide.

How to Use This Information

If you are in business, you probably strive to deliver great customer service.  In fact, at Webolutions, the Denver Experiential Marketing Agency, 90% of our new clients claim that what makes them different from their competitors is their focus on the customer.  But most companies stop at “good” and don’t take the steps required to deliver an amazing experience like Overstock.  Is your front line staff training focused on policies and procedures?  Or, are they empowered to do whatever it takes to satisfy the customer?  At Webolutions we take the time to analyze every customer touch-point in order to develop experiential marketing programs that will get people talking about you and coming back for more.   Call us today 303-300-2640 to learn how we can make your business truly referable.

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