Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Does providing cash back and in consequence extending customer satisfaction represent good end to end process thinking?

There seems to be an increase in cash back deals in consumer electronics at present. The added incentive of a good price entices buyers but are there knock on consequences in creating "reputation risk" and potential brand damage by offering these type of deals?

Well for example on receiving a product on this basis recently I received a satisfaction survey some weeks after receipt of the goods. I replied by saying that as the cash back process was not complete I did not consider the proposition or the transaction closed and was not yet ready to provide feedback; when in reality I am very pleased with the quality of the product itself!

As I stand today, with the claims both now in, I worry about whether it will go smoothly and whether this is really a scam or sharp practice; this makes me doubt and question the brand which is really not what the marketing department surely want me to do - surely? In fact I have put of the buying of a phone from the same manufacturer until these transactions are completed to my satisfaction. Good brand building?

It may well work out fine, time will tell. But if you increase process complexity the risk of failure increases and to be honest people experiences with large companies and their bureaucracies taint their expectations. We expect them to fail.

The company concerned obviously did not realise by offering a cash back scheme, that would take several months to complete within its rules, had extended its end to end process time and internal "hand-offs" considerably and by doing so had increased its potential risk of customer dis-satisfaction in many ways.

The premature customer satisfaction survey underlined its lack of understanding of what it had done. To make it worse the manufactures offer had been passed along the value chain to the retailer who was promoting the scheme and added  another cash back on a case for the item.

So we have a situation where both a well-known electronics provided and another very well-known retailer are both risking their brand images and reputations on a purchase transaction which is now much more complex than they need to be, extending the satisfaction cycle from hours to at least 2-3 months  until all is close off and satisfaction can be achieved; all placed in the hands of a third party administrator. Dangerous or what!

By extending any process cycle time and particularly one where you outsource the extension to another organisation to handle the admin for you this is a risky endeavour. One might well ask why bother to take on board all this extra process, cost  and hassle plus the the risks of messing up and damaging the brand.

In retail cycle times can be really short even when you buy on line and wait a few days for delivery but to extend it to 30 days before you can claim, to avoid people claiming the money and fraudulently returning the product, and then 30 -45 days from claim to payment must be process madness in a customer focused world.

A customer buying the product taking it home and being delighted and advocating purchase to all and sundry next day as opposed to saying " nice product guys but I'm not sure whether this cash back lark is a rip off I'll let you know in late February" seems like a big marketing error.

Clearly it is a lack of joined up thinking where marketing isn't taking on board the overall customer experience into account and the much high risks of creating poor brand experience but simply focusing within  the sales silo trading on some simple pricing gimmick for the sake of a £50 discount.

This perhaps  is an example of poor business architecture where the scramble to differentiate and gain market share has forgotten the basics of trying to shorten cycle times - short cycle times generally create lower risk-   and but secondly keeping things simple - simplicity reduces defects.

You never know it will probably work out fine I will tell you in 45 days!!

Up date 8/2/13.

Two identical products bought from two different retail sources. One validated directly with the manufacturer, validated claim within a week still await the money but reasonable satisfied.

The second via a well known retailer is now validated but was serious hard work with multiple customer service contacts or attempts at contact and failed processes. The only option was to visit the store and speak to a human in the end.

For this retailer cash back was an opportunity to show how bad they are at customer service, which was obviously not the intention; proving my original synopsis.  Still awaiting cheque on this one as well. Retailers brand damaged for me and for the 10 or so friends I have bored to tears about this over the last few weeks!

So both end to end transactions still open from a purchase made in early December. QED.

Update 20/2/13

Still waiting!!

Update 21/2/13

A result! first cheque for £30 arrived from retailer £100 still to go from manufacturer. 

Update 4/3/13

A second result the £50 for the cash back direct from the manufacturer hits the bank account. E2E process from purchase to completion  4 months....

Update 11/3/13
The retailer £50 ? -  well the process is messed up,- customer fault apparently-  bad process design in reality- Manufacture agrees to process exception -as good will !! - and promises money in 21 days ......what a farce...... Well of the £130 outstanding we now have £80 of it so at least some progress. 

Update and Closure 20/4/13

At long last the end to end process completes with the final payment. What a process!! End to end c. 120 and brand disaster.