When I started out in advertising almost 20 years ago, the firm I worked at had a simple mantra. Promise a lot. Deliver more. And we did. It was our "ad" you might say and the founder of the firm believed that every day we had to live up to that ad. If we didn't, then over time we'd fail and eventually that failure would cause us to lose many a client. I've never forgotten that lesson but alas I'm reminded every day that companies around our fine country have.
I don't mean that they are not living up to the promise of over delivery, no I mean the simple promises of their ads. They make promises in advertising that they fail (sometimes spectacularly) to deliver.
And then when the consumer gets wise and moves on to the competition and sales suffer, what does the company do? Yep, usually fire the agency or at a minimum, run new ads.
Case in point -- AT&T. Now AT&T is routinely hammered in Social Media for all kind of suckiness so I'll not bore you with all the details of my entire 10 day saga of pain, suffering and utter blood boiling stupidity. But suffice to say, I believed their ads.
I have two wireless phones, a wireless 3G card, landline and DSL with the company. So when I saw a bundling offer on TV or in direct mail or ads, it made me feel kind of foolish. Why was I overpaying? Why was I dealing with three bills when I could have it all on one? I mean, I'm a college educated man for goodness sake -- and I was over spending!
So about two weeks ago I made the call. And should have known when it took me almost an hour and a second call to another division of AT&T just to start the bundling process that I was in trouble. In short, the phone stopped working on 6/28 and I'm told that a tech will finally make it to the house to fix it by 7/8. 10 days to dispatch a repair tech... seems long by my standards but you decide for yourself. And last night, the DSL stopped working at precisely 6:40pm Eastern Time. Why is that important? Because the only folks that might have been able to help me -- the folks in the sales group -- go home at 6:30pm Eastern Time.
Thankfully my 3G card is still working so I can write this post! [well at least for now ;-) ]
Now there are lots of other details that I won't bore you with but suffice to say, when the Elevated Customer Support Center called me back (as promised) I had hope... right up until I realized it wasn't an actual person, but the Hal 9000 Customer Support computer at AT&T headquarters. And no, I'm not kidding. I still have the voice-mail to prove it!
Here I am, a loyal customer that spends nearly $4,000 a year on AT&T services, trying to do something that the advertising purports is easy and will save me money and time now stuck living through a service delivery nightmare of epic proportions. And why? Because as I've learned, at least in AT&T's case, the company simply cannot cover the check. They are still a byzantine of divisions and subdivisions with systems that don't talk to each other and no overarching customer service or operations strategy to deal with the inevitable systematic crashes that will happen.
And what will happen when I yank my landline service and DSL and move them to Cable? What will happen when I follow my beloved iPhone to Verizon? I'm guessing someone in advertising will hear about it (well after a bunch of Tom Martin's do the same thing). But will the company look at its Customer Support Strategy? Will they do an Operations Analysis to discover and solve operational inefficiencies like the ones that have my entire home off the grid?
Would your company? Or would you just come up with a new ad campaign or announce that you're going to hire a bunch of social media folks to engage the consumer?Success today and in the future (IMHO) will mean delivering Write Home To Your Mama level of service. You've got to deliver something spectacular. Something I'll not just want to tell folks about but something that I'll make sure I tell folks about because I want everyone to find what I have found and ensure you'll be wildly successful so that I can ensure (selfishly) that you will be around to keep delivering all that great goodness to me.
So take a minute today and review your advertising. Your direct marketing, PR and social/digital campaigns. And ask yourself -- are you shining yourself and your customer? Are you promising a lot and delivering more... or are you simply writing bad checks that you know you can't cover?
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UPDATE: Those of you that have been reading this blog for a while know that I'm happy to call out a brand but strive for fairness. If you don't believe me -- read this Pizza Hut post. So I wanted to update this post/rant with a bit of good news. As of 11:35am Central Time, it seems someone at AT&T is in a check cashing mood -- Tiffany in their Escalation Help Desk (may not be the real name of the dept) has been on the case all morning. I should also say that Nathan in their DSL Tech Support rocks too... he couldn't fix it last night but I have a suspicion he is the one who flagged my case as an EMERGENCY.
But Tiffany rocks because she called once just to say, still working on it and then a second time to give me good news - a tech will be here today. Best of all -- and the reason I'm adding this update, she did something so simple, so easy but SO IMPACTFUL. She gave me her direct dial and told me to call if I had ANY issues or just to check on the status of the tech if it started getting late. And she's East Coast. In other words, she did something human and helpful. Which might just be the two most important words in this entire post IMHO - companies need to do what they say and then when they don't, just be human and helpful. I think consumers can forgive helpful, human companies.