What Happened to Serving the Customer?

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I enjoyed reading your special section ("Outlook," March 1), but I must tell you I was distressed. After reading the entire (beautifully done, by the way) issue, I was left with a feeling of sadness. My career in direct marketing began more than 25 years ago, and even though I have been a casual observer for the past several years, doing more business outside the industry than in it, I keep up. I know that mailers still complain about low response rates and blame the list or the creative and do a square-inch analysis and try to fix the response rate the next time around.

Your publication has done a good job of addressing those issues - but at the end of that response rate is a customer - a real, live breathing human. Why is it I see so little that addresses the customer experience in DM News and your special sections? The customer is more than a "response rate."

The first article I read last week was the one with the words "Customer Service" in the title (thinking "Yay! They are addressing the customer issues!"). How wrong I was when there was no mention of the "Customer Experience." You know what that is - that's the sum of the feelings the customer has as a result of any interaction they have with a company.

So that means you could have the best catalog, printed on the best paper, sent to the best list, but if I, the customer, get to your Web site or call center and have anything less than a positive experience, there's no chance I'll become loyal. (I may come back again if I really like the product, but will leave as soon as I find it cheaper somewhere else.)

The marketing investment in getting the customer is spent long before the cost of acquiring them is paid back. Often the customer is lost before the break-even. Don Libey has been telling people for years that they have to pay more attention to taking care of those customers, especially in that critical first year.

Crafting a customer experience that keeps a customer coming back and bringing their friends is an art and science, just like DM is. When are you going to start paying more attention to it?

JoAnna Brandi, JoAnna Brandi & Co., Boca Raton, FL


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