New sales shouldn’t be all that people care about

This week I have been discussing a new approach to measuring customer satisfaction within our business. The method that we have used for years no longer tells us what our customers really believe. At the same time, our business reported its quarterly results and I have been struck by the predictable focus on one thing – our sales growth figures.

Secret Marketer

Also this week my five-month-old iPhone started playing up so I took it back to the retailer. This was the retailer that could not have spent more time extolling the virtues of the iPhone when I bought it. However, on returning with my problem phone I was given the cold shoulder. Not only did I have to wait in a queue for ages but when I did see a member of staff there was a lot of teeth sucking, shaking of head and then being told the phone would have to be sent away and that I would be without it for up to a month.

Fortunately, I was able to walk out of that retailer and go up the road to the Apple Store, which could not have treated the problem more differently. I was welcomed, apologised to, and within minutes it had replaced my phone with a new handset, explaining that, unlike the mobile phone store, staff are not rewarded for selling new handsets. It is incredible that new sales are all that people care about – whether it is internal targets or the one thing BBC business editor Robert Peston probes every chief executive on at results time. This breeds a mentality of focusing solely on making the initial sale, with few caring what happens afterwards.

This is fundamentally wrong. As marketers, we have allowed our sales (and finance) colleagues to perpetuate a ‘sale at all costs’ approach, we have educated customers that price is all that matters, our high street windows are dominated by sale posters and our websites are all about the ease of filling shopping baskets and checking out.

Whether a product actually meets the needs of a customer and whether there will be anyone there post-sale to provide help and advice is the least sexy side of brand delivery. But if you think about it, that’s why customers make a purchase in the first place.

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