Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Collateral Damage

I love the Nook. I own several...collected over the years. One of the reasons I love it is Barnes and Noble allows owners to read a book for an hour at a time. Over the years, I've read a lot of books. Of course, I sit in their store's cafe when I read. In essence, I've paid far more for the books through coffee and treats than I would have buying it directly. However, I really like sitting there outside the office or home reading an enjoyable book. Lately, that's been a problem.

In the past few months, their read-in-store service has been spotty or non-existent. It's supposed to reset overnight, or at least after 24 hours. There have been books that show 'your time has expired' even after two weeks. I now get to the point where I check to see if I can open a book I've been reading (or one of three/four/five that I've started) before I order from the cafe. If I can't, I go to a competing cafe to have coffee, snack and read one of the books I already have downloaded onto my Nook.

This isn't just a rant about bad customer service from B&N's IT department. The point is this business is losing business. Directly, it's only losing one (or more) customer's cafe business. This doesn't amount to much from the store manager's perspective, even though I'm there 4 days out of every week normally. That's not enough of an incentive to fix things; the store manager isn't motivated to create a stink with the IT department. However, if the manager knows it's keeping other Nook owners out of the cafe, now it's adding up. (This particular store manager does know it's reducing my business with her store.)

And then there's the collateral loss of business. "What collateral business?" you might ask, and the store manager might ask the same thing. When I'm there for an hour 4x/week, 10-20 other people see me enjoying my Nook and its convenience. A few ask, and I tell them what I like about it. However, if I'm not sitting there I'm not advertising for them, nor promoting their product. In fact, with the poor performance of read-in-store functionality, I'm becoming a detractor. This particular store is losing potential product sales, and B&N is losing ebook sales that amount to more than the cafe business loses. This is their collateral damage.

We're all familiar with the real/fictional statistics about how many others disgruntled customers dissuade from using your business.  You've not only lost the one customer's direct business, you've lost other potential business. Beyond these considerations, you've now lost the collateral business that your direct customers bring to you by inadvertent advertising (shopping bags, product display in their homes and businesses, etc.) and promotion as they talk about using your product or service in off-hand conversations. Have you calculated the collateral damage to your sales by your gaps in good customer service, product or service performance, etc.? If you're aware of problems, hassles, headaches your customers have, what other business losses might these issues be influencing?

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