Shiny and New vs. Tried and True

I’m getting married!!! 

And I have never been on the receiving end of more highly-targeted marketing messages in my life.  I don’t mean the everyday advertisements and come-ons that we’ve all learned to tune out; I’m talking about the banner ads and emails that are directed at me – a newly-engaged 29-year-old female – at a time when I am very vulnerable, with all of the excitement and emotion that comes with wedding planning.  It seemed that from the moment I changed my Facebook profile from “Single” to “Engaged,” I had more enticements and inclinations to click, respond, and sign-up than I ever thought possible.

One particular company stands out above the rest.  I was no match for their marketing genius.  They hit me early and often with appealing ads and an exciting value proposition.  When it came time to choose the department store where my fiancé and I would create our registry, the decision had already been made.  With a few key strokes, I opened a wedding registry, and when that was done, I was informed that if I applied for a store credit card, I could receive rewards points on not only my purchases, but on gifts that others purchased for my fiancé and me.  Talk about a match made in heaven – I was almost eager to open a charge account – something I NEVER do.  I was still dreaming of fancy gadgets and elegant linens as I started to update my weddingwire.com page with my registry info when I spotted a posting for an event happening at a store about 30 miles away.  At the event, my fiancé and I could learn about the items we should consider adding to our registry, mingle with other newly engaged couples, and enjoy a glass of champagne.  Determined to take advantage of every opportunity to be pampered as bride-to-be, I decided to delay making any selections until the event.  I emailed the event coordinator as instructed to sign up for the event, even though it was two months in the future.

And this is where my story takes a turn.  I never received a response to my email or confirmation of my registration.  Admitting to myself that I was probably being over-eager, I decided to be patient.  A month went by… crickets.  Finally, I picked up the phone and left a voice mail for the event coordinator.  Two more weeks went by.  At last, I received a voice mail in return stating that the event had been cancelled.  “Well,” I thought, “People probably didn’t think it was happening because you never got back to them!”  As disappointed as I was, I consoled myself, understanding that these things happen.

I rebounded quickly, and my fiancé agreed to accompany me to a shopping mall nearby to begin the joyful task.  Sure, I could have gone browsing on the store’s online website and spared him the trip, but there is something about perusing the aisles together and inspecting the merchandise that you can’t get from a URL.  Hand in hand, we marched to the wedding and gift registry counter, full of hope.  When there was no one there, we waited a few minutes.  When no one came, we wandered over to another section of the store and inquired whether someone could help us with our registry.  With some difficulty, an associate was finally produced who fumbled through the process of finding the registry I created online (as if I had done something wrong) and handed over the scan gun.  We were also told that normally, we would receive a tote bag as a gift, but that the person responsible for the department was no longer employed with the company and no one knew how to order more totes.  Gee… thanks.  After that, my heart was really not in it.  Even the shiny KitchenAid stand mixer had lost its appeal because this company had let me down… twice.  Whether it was due to lack of training, inability to retain employees with competitive pay, or just a corporate culture of apathy, my expectations were shattered.  Eventually, I put my unused store credit card in my wallet and opened another registry at the department store I grew up with.  They had the same brands, comparable prices and selection, but the middle-aged man who helped me actually made me feel good about it, telling me about some of the lasting gifts he and his wife had received 18 years prior.

I’ve seen this happen in my industry.  Giant Printing Company has lots of marketing dollars to draw customers in with strategic messages, promises of huge cost savings, and exciting technology.  They may even throw a parade.  But when it comes right down to it – no matter how fine-tuned their marketing mix – what matters is good old-fashioned customer service.  The ability to meet and exceed expectations – to make a commitment and see it through – is the key to success in any industry. Delivering extreme customer service requires a human touch and it is rewarded with extremely loyal customers.  In my experience, even those that fall for “shiny and new” eventually come to appreciate the value of “tried and true.”  And they live happily ever after…

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