Are You Solving the Problem or Compounding It?

are you solving the problemSolving problems is what advertising and marketing is all about. Really it is. We market a product or service to a target market to solve some sort of problem; whether they are identifying their need for it as solving a problem or not. It may make their lives easier or give them a feeling that fulfills a need which is solving a problem. We look at brands and develop a loyalty to them when we like them.We like them for different reasons as some is physical like taste, functionality and results where other are emotional where it gives us a feeling of ease, time, accomplishment and in some situations, coolness. I know when I had my Miata it gave me that little jump in my step when I drove it or walked up to it.

Solving the Problem

Problems for consumers is not so easy to admit.Sure, when they purchase and the product fails or does not meet their expectations they report a problem but yet so many do not see purchasing as solving a problem. Problem is in many ways is a negative term as whether internally or externally it is associated with an inability to solve; but yet as marketers we are seeking to solve. Incredible power struggle that emphasizes the need for marketers to talk to and not at their target. We all have problems that are  important to us whether it be in the now or in the long term and we seek a means and ways to solve it. Brands do solve problems as we buy them and stay loyal and avoid brand switching. They are known to us, comfortable and easy to grab which solves the problem of uncertainty, time and performance.

Compounding the Problem

We want to help and solve problems. Companies have long had customer service centers that were equipped to handle customer problems. Social media has helped with customer service but also has allowed people to speak out. Reality is that the have always spoken out but now they allow it to be very public. A brand that does not respond or fails to perform to the expectations only escalates the problem and when pushes the problem back onto the consumer, compounds it. Example of this is when I was standing in a long line to pay for my 44oz Diet Pepsi (aka my daily fix) I had no choice but to listen to a woman on the phone talking about her experience with the DMV.

She was loud but well spoken between her gum chewing and cracking. Apparently her car is not registered (which is a problem here) and when she was stopped and ticketed for it, she tried to register the car. She is on a limited budget and when she went online to get an “estimated” cost it was under $300 but when she got to the DMV it was over $500. From what she said it was fines and fees for not registering the car on time. Makes sense but what she said after was interesting. She tried to create a payment plan as she had $300 but was denied. She could do that but would not get the sticker that is needed to visibly show that the car is registered to the police when considering a traffic stop. She was willing to pay but yet the problem was not solved as she probably will get another ticket which she has to pay and restrains her from registering the car. See how the problem is compounded as I am guessing she will pay the ticket which is taking away from saving the extra monies to register the car.

This is an example that is showing how we can compound a problem. She is wrong to not have her car registered but at the same time admitted she was wrong and made the effort to rectify. As a brand we want to solve but yet sometimes we compound the problem. The customer is not always right but yet the solution is not always right. We cannot please everybody but when we look at the bigger picture, we want to achieve our ultimate goal. In Nevada if the problem is cars not registered, broadcast the fine is under $100 and if they do not register by X date then they will be find over $250. This way cars are registered, the need to threaten with a hefty fine is diminished. The goal is to have cars registered and threatening with tickets and fines  is not achieving the goal of bringing in the revenue of registering a car. As a brand you have to create a solution to all problems which could be a “no questions asked” or more information needed.  Either way, people will talk and are you ready for the talk -positive or negative?

What do you think?

photo credit: comatosed

  • I love this line: “The customer is not always right but yet the solution is not always right.” We've all encountered these situations where we bump up against the limitations of “rules” or “company policies” which are designed to fit all, but usually end up helping no-one. I think brands need to be more flexible in providing solutions and customer service – which probably means they need to empower their customer service reps to actually provide service – take real, independent actions to fix a problem as the situation requires – and not just regurgitate the company's policies in a robotic manner. I think social media has allowed some brands to do this, but ultimately companies have to find a way to individualize solutions to each problem – whether that's done on the phone, in-person or via social media. If companies can do this, the positive word-of-mouth they could generate as a result would be more than worth their efforts.

  • Lucy

    You hit a very good point here “empower their customer service reps to actually provide service – take real, independent actions to fix a problem as the situation requires – and not just regurgitate the company's policies in a robotic manner.”

    The problem starts here as when a customer reaches out with needing help and are met with the company policy mombo jumbo. Not everyone can be helped as some ask for above and beyond but the rest that if there was a better understanding of how they can help, would go a long way.

    People many times expect to be met with a battle when calling customer service. When their needs are taken care of without a battle, the customer is telling everyone about their experience. I starts that trust which leads to loyalty. Zappos did not become the cust serv example it is today by disappointing or being in battles with customers.

  • Suzanne,

    So happy that Chris included you on his blog. I have been thinking in the last few months of creating a locally based (Puerto Rico) website on customer service something many companies locally and on the outside need a lot of.

    Their is such a huge disconnect when companies try to get you into liking the product physically, emotionally and overall that they forget they need to keep you in that state to motivate you to return and make another buy in the Future. I can understand your Miata example because I use to have a small convertible and a the beginning getting into it was great but after a few weeks went by I started having issues with the vehicle and 3 years later I ended leaving the car at my Local Mercedes Benz leadership ( I also vowed to not touch a Mercedes Benz again).

    I created a blog to communicate my frustrations but at the end of the day my concerns where left online at http://mercedesbenzpr.net. Till this day I see a Mercedes and I get into a bad mood.

    Social Media has allowed us to speak out but it is up to the other side to listen and want to accept they have issues or problems they need to fix.

    Your example on compounding the problem is very present in many places. In some places the corporate environment does not allow people to fix a problem without creating a whole process around it. Sometimes by the time the get to fixing the problem it is a monster of a problem since it already compounded.

    I see this with many small businesses where they look the other way thinking the problem is going to go away.

    Reading this post gave me an idea on writing another post on the compounding issues subject based on an experience I had preparing for Hurricane Earl this last sunday at a Supermarket.

    Thank you for sharing your views. Do I have your permission to use this post on my blog.

  • Raul

    This post came from being on a line and listening to someone (albeit I had no choice but to listen but she spoke volumes in a very well spoken way). Of course you have permission to repost as I read your blog about the Hurricane (I am a secret – well it used to be a secret storm tracker; missed calling to be meterologist) and fortunately you did not feel the wrath of Earl but Fiona is starting to make some noise.

    The problem solving is always an issue when many times it does not have to be. You said it well above with the time to get to fix the problem it is a monster of a problem since it is already compounded. So true but they are not able to see it. Take Nevada, big problem with unregistered cars. Ok so instead of luring people in with a minor fine of under $100, no slap them with a big one that is more than a ticket would be. This is 2 agencies not working together. Boggles the mind.

    Be safe and I will be watching Fiona and looking for ya online to be sure you are ok.

  • Suzanne,

    Thank you for being concerned Earl just left rain and now we are feeling the heat. I am structuring a post on the compound issue and will also keep you posted on Fiona. I am going to be chasing Earl since I leave on my #AYCJ Pass to North Carolina hopefully Earl will die down..

    Keep those posts coming. I look forward to reading them! I can wait till I go to Vegas one day.

  • I agree with Lucy and You. The best examples of empowering customer service representatives I read on Tony Hsieh's book Delivering Happiness. Have a great one!

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