What Quality is Not – An Assertion

What Quality is Not – An Assertion

It is interesting to open our eyes to the ever-growing marketing assaults by service organizations.

I travel a great deal with my work. As a result, I am very aware of the assertions made by service providers at every stage of my engagement. And what I’ve concluded is that securing consumer loyalty by providing great service appears to have been sidelined and replaced by the assertions of great service. This has the double negative effect of heightening expectations while leaving the assertions unproven. A few recent examples.

Airlines — While captive in the air, the barrage of pushy messages selling special credit cards and frequent flying programs can be overwhelming. And with video services found on most airlines, the adverts for the airlines and hotel partners are far from voluntary. As a participant, I am reminded over and over again about my special category and the privileges earned, however the actual experience is disappointing to say the least. Take the ‘free’ companion ticket that is virtually unusable given the limited dates available, or the airline voucher with restrictions galore.

Taxi – When has all the written material found in the back of the cab ever helped with understanding the actual fare? And now with many cabs having video advertisements assaulting the back seat, a headache comes with the ride. The promise of a stress-free ride is overshadowed by poor visibility due to window postings, the interior video cam, and the protection cage provided to the driver. The end result is a ride that is more like transport in a police cruiser.

Hotel Rooms – Upon entering the normal hotel room, having to gather up all the advertisements scattered around the room is time consuming. If not collected, the salvo of messages will tackle you while sleeping. The promise of an upscale room is broken with the impression of being in a convenience store as $5 water bottles and food are displayed on any open surface.

Baiting for the next story on television, billboards dancing on our highways, store specials with ‘the biggest sale of the year’, pushy junk emails, and long checkout lines crowded with impulse-buy products add to the litany of complaints. The transformation principle of attraction being more powerful than assertion is not being practiced. Attraction is when superior products and/or services are appealing and draw customer appreciation…and eventually loyalty. Asserting that products and/or services are of high quality is a push.

There are companies that practice the principle of attraction. Some years back, Honda utilized the concept of surprise quality. The idea is to provide the customer with an unexpected product enhancement.

When I bought my first Honda, I was surprised to find the trunk compartment lined and the tire changing tools neatly wrapped. Upgrading the truck compartment was a relatively new design approach at the time, but the carpet wasn’t the point. Honda’s point was to leave me, a new and hopefully returning customer, feeling impressed.

USAA Insurance and Financial Services, a past Baldrige Award winner, consistently demonstrates trust toward customers. Remembering the few claims submitted over the past 30-plus years, I can attest to the helpfulness of agents…no defensiveness required. And when determining best levels of insurance, upselling isn’t part of the approach with USAA. I’m attracted by the business practices and customer service approach of USAA.

Les Schwab Tire Company, FedEx and Zappos are among the many companies demonstrating the principle of attraction. Less push, more appeal.

 Transformational Insights:

  1. Where have you experienced quality that attracts you back? What can you learn from it and bring back to your own marketing and operational strategies?
  2. Check how much time you spend in asserting your value, the value of your services and/or products. What are you doing to exceed customer expectations while going light on the promotions?