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Marketers and Parenting: How Discipline Creates Customer Experience

In today's Wall Street Journal, there was an article in the lifestyle section of the paper discussing the "secrets" of French parents with respect to the creation of well-behaved children. The key pointers are what most people would consider obvious: delaying immediate gratification, telling the child "no", and being consistently firm in an educative fashion - and a few more things. All of which I may add, my parents imparted to me - in fact, I felt incredulous that this article was written or HAD to be!!!

Then I thought about Kohl's and the "YES, we can policy" which has gotten so out of control that the "kids run the store". At least in our store, coupons lack expiration dates, discounts are freely imparted to anyone, returns years old are refunded without question for more money than they are worth (that is opinion, there), and essentially customers can do anything they want.

Case in point: A POS colleague of mine told a customer that there were no coupons. Believe it or not, at occasional points in the year Kohls will actually NOT have coupons, discounts, scratchoffs, etc. The cashier advised the customer in a stern, but professional tone that Kohls did not have ANY additional coupons, promotions, etc. The net result is the the customer wrote a SCATHING letter to corporate which went down thru the ranks. My friend was called into our Store Manager (who knew the story and felt it was overboard) who had to discipline her - as to the new policy of writing anyone up who received a corporate complaint (unfounded or not). That customer claimed that because she owned a Kohls card and was a loyal shopper she should get a discount, regardless of whether there was one available or not. If you even question a customer about whether they have a card and intend to use it to receive a discount, you are labelled rude. If you say "NO" to a customer, they immediately want a manager who will override you and "give it to them anyway". The first words out of a customer's mouth when they come to a register isn't "HI" or "nice day", it's "I want my coupon", "what discounts are available today", "I forgot my coupon, give me my 15%", "any Kohl's cash?".

Without discipline, the customers are too empowered and are running wild. Like children with no rules, the customers get what they want, when they want it, how they want it. Marketers need to be aware of how bending the rules or eliminating them can create even worse customer service, lower profits, and wreck a business.

Consider: Now customers will call managers and write corporate even when the rules are correctly enforced - service levels need to be even higher to keep them happy and "in line". Eliminating coupon expiration dates will erode profits and reduce sales intentions. Customers who abide by rules get slighted and will not shop where they aren't treated fairly. Scenarios that aren't far-fetched, particularly if things do not change to a more compromiseable situation (i.e., Kohl's cash is still redeemed a day or two after expiration or for a good justifiable reason like a snowstorm, versus whenever people feel like using it - even months later!!!).

Hopefully things will change and swing to a compromiseable middle ground which is fair for customers and employees of Kohls alike. And, entrepreneurs pay heed - it is OK to bend a little - but not so far, that you reset expectations and create monsters.

Permalink 02/04/12 -- 04:27:52 pm, Categories: Background, Information

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