Sometimes, no matter how experienced, organized, planned and aware you are, fate throws in her oar. I’m a keen cyclist, not a lycra speed merchant but I like the freedom that my Pashley affords me when getting around London. As I was cycling along the Kings Road today a tradesman in his delivery truck opened his door at the same time as my head was passing, hitting me and causing me to fall headlong into the road where I lay stunned for a few seconds. Thankfully I had a helmet on, plus fate shined on me in that there wasn’t a bus following closely behind. Afterwards, as I sat in my office nursing a sore head I started to think about how fate intervenes, in ways that actually have a benefit, though perhaps not initially apparent.
At a recent pitch meeting I was sat with the board of what was then a relatively large company in the computer software training marketplace, we were talking about where we proposed to host their website. I was talking about our hosting capacity and the number of servers we had in a rack so that they needn’t worry about performance. I noticed a few bemused looks but carried on regardless (as is my way) until one of the others there, the MD of a leading SEM consultancy who were handling their PPC campaigns, raised his hand and called a halt to proceedings.
‘Chris, are you telling me that you host out of Baghdad?’
It took a few moments for me to realise their error as it was so unexpected that a business who were prepared to put large sums behind their online budget had so little understanding of the fundamentals.
Fortunately, we didn’t win that contract.
It sounds odd to say that but it become apparent subsequently that this company were conning their customers. What they did was to sell overpriced training courses to people (typically those without a higher education) who wished to retrain and get a job in the lucrative IT sector. ‘Nothing wrong with that!’ I hear you say. But, their audience typically didn’t have the money upfront to pay for the training and so this company also helped them arrange loans to pay for their fees. ‘Sounds reasonable’ you may be muttering.
Now comes the rub. The loan was paid up front to the training company once the student had signed the loan agreement. This meant that, even though the directors of the training company were fully aware that they were going to the dogs they kept taking money from their customers and pocketed it, to the tune of many many tens of thousands of pounds. Then, one day they shut the business down. From that point the students were cast adrift, they no longer had a training course and had lost all their money. The banks continued to collect their loan payments and the students could only claim some protection if they had paid by credit card, which because of their financial status the majority had not done.
From a customer experience this is about as bad as it gets and is indicative that it’s not just financial institutions that need to be regulated. No doubt had we worked with them that we would also have suffered financially, but more than that our reputation for customer experience would have been jeopardised.
What has this blog post got to do with online customer experience you may be asking? The point I’m trying to make, is that customer experience is not marketing-led, or faddish. It sits at the heart of a business and therefore extends naturally to the agents of that business. Oh, and it’s also about how fate sometimes lends a helping hand..