The noughties have come to an end with us having seen the worst economic situation in a generation. Front line sales and marketing staff took the brunt, while customer service was forced to deliver more with less. Training budget have been slashed while free coffee & biscuits have all but disappeared from offices.
We also saw the rise of social media as a marketing tool. Google became a verb and one of the best brands in the world. Similarly tweet was a bird sound or pinching action; now you do it on your phone. Public opinion swayed and we saw bankers replaced by estate agents as the most loathed professions. As the world has goes flatter, customer behaviours have changed beyond recognition.
British consumers are holding out more for bargains this year and have been prepared to order online later. This recession saw the rise of bargain hunters, with ‘discount vouchers’ and ‘coupons’ becoming common search terms according to Experian Hitwise. Describing online customer behaviour, Hitwise says, “the search for discount vouchers has become increasingly sophisticated, as we are beginning to see the emergence of what the Future Foundation call the ‘maximising consumer’. These shoppers do not necessarily buy the cheapest products or services, but spend a lot of time researching online before selecting what to buy, and finding the best price or discounts before making a purchase.”
To finish this year’s last blog on a positive note, I wanted to recount my recent encounter with Dell. I was planning to purchase a new laptop for some time. I started my search a few months ago. Of the major laptop manufacturers, Dell seems to be the only company whose website seems to be designed for a home user rather than for a sophisticated IT buyer. Once I had zeroed down on the Dell laptop I wanted, I started my hunt for discount coupons and kept an eye out for sale or vouchers. I have been a long term Dell customer and Dell has a good presence across all channels: phone, web, social media, chat etc. So I signed up to follow Dell on Twitter, chatted with their sales team a few times, even signed up for a ‘Win a Dell’ draw online! (read maximising consumer). I was hoping Dell would surprise me, but nothing came my way that would reduce the price. Luckily, Capgemini has an employee purchase plan with Dell which gave me some discount. So I added the laptop to my basket.
In the final roll of the dice, I decided to hold off till Boxing day in the hope that Dell might do something special. Imagine my disbelief when the price of my laptop went UP! Since I had a lower quote from them, I had a Dell rep call me. He knocked my socks off with a line ‘The price seems to have gone up considerably, but we will provide you the price that works best for you” and then proceeded to close the sale on the lower price!
Dell has opportunities to improve customer interactions, give greater autonomy to sales rep to provide discount, engage loyal (not just satisfied) customers. But, Dell scored very high on managing a consistent customer experience so far. While I wait for the new laptop to arrive, I wish you a very Happy and successful New Year.
(This blog appeared in Capgemini’s Customer Experience Blog in Dec 2009)