Friday, December 7, 2007

Engaging/Disengaging Customers

I recently ran across two very divergent strategies in enhancing customer (member) experiences. First the positive story. The YMCA is test-piloting an effort in 30 cities across the United States entitled YMCA Activate America. As a fitness center instructor at my local Y a few hours per week, I attended a training session the other night explaining the program which is meant to engage health seekers and to reinforce the Y's desire to be a relationship-based membership organization.

The idea is to make customers/members feel welcomed, listened to, respected and involved. It's a great concept because it really involves becoming a counselor in understanding health seeker's obstacles (perceived and actual) in getting fit. It also encourages members to seek out alternative cardio vascular fitness programs that many fail to realize exist.

A less flattering customer relations effort was recently launched by Walmart where it pulled all customer service numbers from its Web site in an effort to cut back on inbound calls tracking orders. This notion is obviously very short-sighted given that when you reach a live person on the other line, you feel valued, versus pushing buttons to respond to an automated system. This also short-circuits the opportunity to cross-sell customers having a tendency toward repeat purchases.

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