When did you learn that you couldn’t trust many corporations or bureaucracies? For me, I’m sure, it was a combination of things including bad customer service, poorly conceived marketing schemes and high pressure sales. But I do distinctly remember the first time I realized that buyer beware was true.
In my early twenties I had purchased my first new car. That car was my first big purchase, it was a huge coming-of-age milestone and the largest check I had written to that date. A few months later I detected a funny sound, something alarming. It wasn’t the engine, it was something else, something near the front wheel wells perhaps?
I brought it into the dealer and they took it for a drive and told me that it sounded normal. Reluctantly I left and kept driving it. Over time the sound got worse and I knew for sure something was wrong. I took the car back and drove it with the service manager pointing out when it made the offending sounds. “Sounds find to me” he said, “maybe you are hearing things?” By this point I knew for sure something was abnormal and could pinpoint when the sound would appear based on sharpness of my turns and speed. Finally, I went back one more time, just a few days later, and out of frustration brought my boyfriend who knew something about cars.
My boyfriend did the talking and without even doing a test drive the service manager admitted that there was a problem with the struts from this model and a recall was being issued. After nearly a decade I still feel myself getting angry again as I write this.
I’m sure you have your own list of customer service, sales and marketing issues like this. Like the time my husband found a pot scrubby in his dinner at a local restaurant and the owner laughed. Or the time a friend opened opened the box of a new car stereo to find a different product inside and when he tried to return it to the retailer they wouldn’t take it back. Or the shoddy work of a contractors. Or the high pressure tactics of a salesperson. Or a pushy telemarketer. Or a acquaintance hawking insurance. Ugh!
For each of us who have earned these battle scars it’s a wonder we trust organizations as much as we do. For all of us there is some level of distrust when we think of organizations and the associated bureaucracy. That distrust extends to most marketing, all sales and most corporate entities (know that even our associations may be lumped into this).
This is why word of mouth continues to be the most influential marketing. Someone I trust, trusts this firm to do the right thing. That kind of story carries weight. The problem then becomes how do organizations become worthy of word of mouth? By being trustworthy, by being remarkable, by being relevant, by overachieving, by providing proactive member service and putting members first every day.
Our marketing and sales and bureaucracy radars are finely tuned. When members get a whiff of any of these things they run for the hills. Instead we can engage in the actions that associations excel in: caring, generosity and great service.