Misleading customer websites: worst practices exposed

Cheer up if you cannot understand their web-site, you are not stupid: its designed that way

Simon Caulkin, writing for The Observer, Sunday December 11, 2005, Customers are not just for Christmas , notes that, regretably, it almost seems to be common practice, this time of year to misuse the power of the web by bamboozling customers with the objective of maximising profits, not through good value but at their expense.

In earlier articles I criticised some IVR systems and the difficulty in emailing companies like amazon.com for making organisations less like living entities (aka bioteams).

However this is small beer compared with the other stuff going on this Christmas where some companies are treating their customers like suckers.

The most shameful ‘anti customer service’ practices include:

  • A leading railway company who admit it is hard to find cheap fares on their website and that it would take a year to make them more accessible

  • A leading mobile phone company who have calculated that they make two-thirds of their profits by not telling customers they are on inappropriate tariffs

  • Airlines who deliberately change their prices hundreds of times a day to make it impossible for you to book that heavily advertised bargain fare

  • Companies using premium phone numbers for customer service to profit from keeping customers on hold while they work their way through their automated answering systems

The article references an up-coming book, The Ultimate Business Question, by Fred Reichheld. This question is, according to Fred, "are your profits good profits or bad profits?".

Good profits are made by creating value for your customers and are self-sustaining.

Bad profits are made at the expense of the customers and create resentment. These resentful customers become in effect an "anti-marketing department" against the companies who have exploited them.

In any transaction or collaboration there is always the short game and the long game. The temptation to go for the opportunistic quick win which takes care of your own needs but not those of your partner can seem very attractive at times. The alternative 'mutual win' takes longer, is less certain and involves risk but it is still the only way to create sustainable mutual value.

This article frighteningly shows us just how many corporates are risking their futures by playing the short game with their customers this time of year.

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