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Embarrassing Promotional Push Back By Personnel
We’ve all been there. The moment of truth; where we experience sales promotions gone wrong as consumers. While attempting to redeem a dinner coupon when the check arrives; or expecting a promised free-with-purchase product at checkout; or confirming a pre-arranged upgrade at check-in, you are met with the phrase “Oh I don’t know anything about that!” or “Not at this location”.
Time stands still as you experience a moment of shock and frustration. Front line personnel control your destiny, and it is bleak. The deal you expected is in jeopardy. The entire customer experience deteriorates in a flash.
The Case of the Perplexing Partner Promotional Offer
In partnership with a major movie studio, I planned a promotion that was well thought out with every detail covered. Or so I thought.
Working for a travel industry company at the time, I had arranged for a highly targeted list of families with children to get a comprehensive pre-packaged product that included a special rate, discounted coupons to a movie- themed attraction and a free DVD of the related movie release.
To save money on shipping we met with the Operations Team for the one location that was involved, and it was agreed that the movie would be delivered at the point-of-sale.
Here is where I learned we should have conducted a detailed risk analysis. Although we trained operations management and the front-end team, issued training releases, and posted bold signage at the location, none of the front line employees seemed to know anything about the promotion when the first to redeem customers arrived at the counter. The team had to be brought up to speed all over again
With every new shift the coupon that entitled consumers to the free movie were rejected, returned or met with the famous “I don’t know anything about that” response. Irate customers, with crying babies at their side, called our customer service department and many were then transferred directly to me to make good on the offer from my office two thousand miles away.
Although the promotion ran smoothly, after the first few hours of confusion, I realized that any offer that potentially jeopardized the customer experience is counterproductive, and should be planned very differently
Why Sales Promotional Plans Go Awry
As sales promotion project managers we are often great at planning campaigns. We do everything right, right? Then why do some of our best-laid plans become bad sales promotions at execution?
When I reflect back on a promotion gone badly at the point-of-connection, I generally uncover one of two things. One is a gap in the Customer Journey Mapping and the second is asking front-end customer service personnel to perform a task outside of their standard operating procedure. At the point-of-redemption there is a clash of emotions when the offer is questioned or denied. Both parties are stressed and things could get very ugly.
Planning The Risk Out of Sales Promotion
Risk Management is a discipline for living with the possibility that future events may have adverse effects*.
In my movie distribution example there were many ‘events’ that would produce adverse effects and should have been identified in the planning stage.
The lapse time between training and promotion launch, the fact that the percentage of customers looking to redeem the offer was very small when compared with the thousands of customers that come through our door, and expecting our team to perform functions outside of our SOP for a short promotional period were all factors.
This lesson learned was the consequences of not taking the time to walk through the customer journey and look closely at your operational standard procedures had consequences related to time, cost, quality and a negative impact on reputation.
Change the Parameters To Eliminate Risks
After performing risk analysis throughout the sales promotional planning process, many foreseen problems can be eliminated. In my DVD distribution example I could have hired a sampling company to distrube the DVD’s, bit the bullet and mailed the DVD’s as part of the offer, eliminated the DVD distribution from the promotion altogether, and if it were today I could provide streaming media to deliver the movie online. In my example it was the human factor that was not planned for. Using alternative solutions the stressful situation is completely eliminated and customer loyalty is enhanced vs. diminished.
The Customer Is Always King
I know that as a consumer I will often be faced with that awkward moment of truth when my request for an earned sales promotional offer is questioned ,or worse denied. Having been on both sides of the phenomenon, I encourage you to pledge that you will identify any and every potential risk factor, no matter how small, at at every point of connection to make sure the customer is king. After all, the objective of sales promotion is to motivate consumers to action. and we want that action to be a very positive experience.
*Source: SEI, Kloman90, p. 203