In a world fast evolving towards the grabs of consumers on social media the importance of customer advocacy takes on a new and important meaning.
The press of a few buttons on a tablet or a smart phone can see a company’s product, or service endorsed or questioned.
But what does customer advocacy mean and are there responsibilities attached to it?
I pondered this question recently when I had both a favourable and unfavourable experience that was both related.
What were my responsibilities and to whom was I responsible, and what of the responsibilities of others?
Let me set the scene.
Many of you know that Janet, TomO, and I are avid travellers of the Australian Outback, and to help make our journeys as comfortable as possible we travel with a camper that is home grown, made for Australian conditions and manufactured by Track Trailer – the uniquely styled T-Van.
I won’t bore you with a lot of detail but not long after purchasing it the unit had a small component failure that was replaced under the manufacturer’s warranty, and it has worked well for some time, but failed again recently.
Today, the camper is out of warranty, but I was confident that given this was a component that had failed previously and replaced that the company would want to make sure it made good the item once again, after all if something fails more than once it might be pointing towards a quality control issue.
Well, the manufacturer, Track Trailer, played “hard-ball” and refused, pointing to the expiration of the warranty.
Naturally, it was disappointing, not so much because I would be out of the pocket the cost of replacing it, but because as a consumer I felt let down, after all this was the second failure. Had it been the first time I would have paid the price, acknowledging the warranty had expired and moved on.
But it wasn’t all a bad story, the company that sold the unit brand new, Alan Graham’s Caravans and RVs, and who have serviced it since new jumped to the rescue and agreed to replace the item free of charge to myself, and for which I am grateful.
Mind you, it wasn’t so much about the money, but about a company backing its own product, a product that is at the top-end of the price range and billed as perfect for the “Australian Outback”.
But coming back to my point on customer advocacy and responsibilities, not only had the manufacturer let me down in this instance, but I felt I had let down all the people whom I had recommended to take a look at this product.
If they have a similar customer service experience with the company it reflects on me and my judgement in recommending the company and its products to them.
We purchased our Track Trailer T-Van after receiving much feedback “in the field” from people travelling in one. We placed a far greater store on this feedback from other travellers when making our original purchase than the glossy advertising the company did in magazines, in the print media.
Yes, we now live in a world fast transforming, one where social media has given the consumer the ability to quickly endorse and support, or to be critical of a company or its product and services.
Companies can embrace this, be thankful for responses in kind, and to see negative feedback as an opportunity to address consumer concerns. After all, there may well be a good reason for taking a particular viewpoint or stance – but it needs to be communicated effectively and with consideration.
Smart companies learned long ago that advertising budgets, no matter how large, can only promote a product or service so far, the greatest advertisement comes from customer advocacies and that can never be bought, it can only ever be earned.
Can you relate to this, I’m sure you can!
And remember, if all else fails, pack up “The Landy” and head west into the Australian Outback…
Ps. I have donated the $250 cost of the unit being replaced for free by Alan Graham’s Caravans and RVs to the Royal Flying Doctor Service in recognition of the great work they do in servicing the medical needs of Australian’s living, working, and travelling in the Outback.
Take the time to click on the link to read more about this marvellous organisation!
I love the red sand picture. I was wondering if you would give me permission to print it and hang it in a doctors office?
Thank you for asking, yes of course, perhaps with a note as to where it came from.
The photograph was taken in Welford National Park, Outback Australia…
Regards, Baz…The Landy 😉
I got caught at this very spot..way to Alice Springs in 1999 during the first floods Alice had had for many years. It was 19 December..last day of school and I was in the Principals Jeep trying to make airport for flight somewhere..Great to see the picture
Thing is most customers walk through the company’s doors, all they need to do is ensure they provide clear, concise information about what they can and can’t do, and why that is the case.
Sales and selling has to be the easiest concept in the world, implementing it seems to be one of the hardest things to do properly!
And the RFDS is a wonderful organisation…
Love that you paid it forward with a donation – nice! And customer service, whether it’s an automated computer talking on the phone, a voice from another country where I just can’t understand what they’re saying or simply a rude response from a company where I am a loyal customer is just plain frustrating!
Well written pal, sharing his with my marketing manager
If businesses (and people, for that matter) just ‘did the right thing’ rather than hide behind rules/warranties/excuses, the world would be a less stressful place, wouldn’t it? I do believe that companies who focus on customer centricity are rewarded with more profitable business in the end. Thanks for sharing this story Baz. And, that picture of the red sand dunes…WOW. Just wow.
And it is so true. I recently purchased a new four-wheel drive vehicle (more on that later) and obtained three prices, they were all similar, but I went with the more expensive as I had received positive feedback from three individuals on the company’s sales process and commitment to customers.
The dune is in Welford National Park o the desert drive!
I can’t relate when it comes to trailers, but I guess it’s a problem that you can have with any company selling any kind of product. Good to know there are still companies out there that care about longterm and after-sales service.
Good value essay, Baz. It’s a priority point.
I agree with what you’ve said Baz. In the end it’s what gives them a reputation and that in business can be worth far more than anything else. We’ve had some excellent service with our camper trailer….I think it’s a track about… Anyway, hubby has nothing but praise for it and the service we’ve received from the place where we purchased it.
And wow….that is such a beautiful picture of the red sand dune!
Reputations are what business is built on, and yes, isn’t the dune wonderful!
So here’s the real question, Baz… how do you feel about taking your good ol’ fashioned Yankee ingenuity and designing a food truck. 😉
Now back to your regularly scheduled program… I get very frustrated with companies who do not back their products and/or services. Depending on the issue, I have varying expectations. Sometimes I expect a price tag of zero for whatever I need, sometimes I’m prepared to shell out some cash. I find it’s a case-by-case situation. But if someone wants to alienate me as a consumer, ignore my issues and offer me no viable solutions.
Some consideration, that is what most consumers want!
But on Advocacy, I have been a great advocate for this company each and every time I get Out and About – some companies just don’t get the importance of this…