Choosing to annoy your customers

Making decisions about how you treat your customers, operations, products and marketing is what businesses have to do.  Here are some real life decisions businesses have made from a mini survey of the 6 people who sit around me:

  1. The gym who charges 50p to weigh yourself
  2. The airport operator who charges £1 to buy a ‘pack’ of two plastic bags for liquids
  3. An emergency glazing company who quotes for replacing the glass, comes round as agreed at 10pm at night, and then says they cannot replace it in the dark because of health and safety-but insists that the full cost of the visit is payable
  4. The mobile operator who, after a tariff change, does not mention that you will now have to pay for voicemail which had previously been free
  5. The insurer who increases your premium quotation by 37% despite there having been no claim-and then immediately reduces it when you say you are going to shop around
  6. The weekly lifestyle magazine costing £1.60 which bundles another publication with it and charges you £2

Two things are for sure.  Number one is that these are all deliberate decisions.  Number two is that they will annoy customers.  The business has, presumably, chosen that revenue or cost considerations should trump any effect on the customer (and how many other potential customers they will tell).  These are probably the same types of business who say ‘our customers are important to us’ or ‘we are customer centric’.

Businesses doing things like this should at least make sure they are measuring the original business case for it.  Making sure they add up the masses of incremental revenue they get and what they think it is doing to the bottom line.

Because there are other corresponding, relevant metrics to incorporate into the analysis:

  • Lower customer satisfaction scores
  • Increased customer attrition and lower loyalty
  • Lower net promoter scores and people recommending to others
  • Increased negative conversations about the brand on social media and real life
  • Customers preferring competitors
  • Brand equity dashboards

Much of the energy in proposition development focuses on fixing the hassles which customers have to endure.  This is absolutely right and increases the likelihood of being able to offer something which resonates with customers and they will buy.  However, at least as important-and possibly more emotive-should be a focus on removing the irritants.  At Lexden, when we work with clients to develop customer propositions, we always ensure that there is a separate exercise which concentrates on identifying these annoyance factors and challenging the commercial reasons for them.  There is rarely a credible rationale.  Fixing these are the quintessential low hanging fruit clients love to find.

So annoy your customers by all means if you want.  But at least do it deliberately and for enough financial gain to counteract the inevitable corresponding negative effects on your customer metrics.

And call yourself ‘bottom line focused’ or ‘driven by the numbers’ if you want.

But don’t call yourself customer centric.


Lexden is a marketing strategy agency which creates unordinary propositions to motivate customers and deliver commercial advantage for brands.

For more information please contact , or call us on M: +44 (0) 7698 316548. And you can follow us on LinkedIn Facebook and Twitter @consultingchris .

Who we work with…

clients mar 2013

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