Category Archives: Huh?

As Clear As Broken Glass

I bought a new (used) car a couple of weeks ago. The old one, which I loved, had some weird electrical things going on and I figured it was smarter to get rid of it before it decided to bail on me. Frankly, I didn’t like the service department at the nearest official dealer either. The last time I went there (and I only went there for warranty repairs), they kept me for 4 hours for something that they said would take an hour.

The latest car is great except the screen for the entertainment/navigation/etc. system had little spider cracks in it. It turns out it’s common to this make and is due to dramatic temperature changes over time. It is under warranty and I could have it fixed for free. Well, guess who was going to do that repair?

You can’t make this up, but it was the same service department that serviced the other make of car. Oh sure, it was in the building next door but it is common ownership and, as I found out, common customer service philosophy. The dealer from whom I bought the new car called and set up an appointment for me to go have the screen replaced. The part was ordered. I got there on time. When they called me back in after an hour, the screen hadn’t been replaced and they gave me an estimate to do $2,000 of other work. Do you think I was happy?

I won’t belabor the story, except to say that it turns out the dealers have to submit photos that they take via their internal system to have the warranty repair approved prior to making the repair. I found that out from a second “official” dealer I went to. They had me there for 30 minutes and said they’d call when the part came in. It came in and yesterday the repair was done in exactly the amount of time they said it would take. New screen, no charge, great service. Yay!

Of course, the first dealer wasn’t happy about the review I posted nor about the response I gave to the questionnaire about my service from headquarters. They never explained the need for an initial visit nor did they explain why the part they had ordered was given to another customer according to what my dealer found out.

It’s a great reminder that customers can handle pretty much anything except being lied to or being kept in the dark. They posted an answer to my review but my comments are out there. They’re accurate but probably could have been prevented had the manager simply explained the warranty process to me and not tried to sell me on a bunch of stuff I didn’t really need at that point. I went to him with a problem. Instead of a solution, he tried to tell me I had many other problems (or my car did) without solving the one I needed him to solve. 

Be open. Be honest. Solve your customers’ problems. You’ll be in business for a long time.

Leave a comment

Filed under Consulting, Huh?

Not Delivering At All

If it’s Friday, the topic is food here on the screed. This week, it’s the food delivery services I suspect many of you have been using to support your favorite restaurants during the time we’re supposed to stay at home. Food delivery is not a new phenomenon. I know a lot of folks, myself included, who used it before all of this when they had nothing planned or bought for dinner and couldn’t bear the thought of pulling themselves together to go out.

What’s different with these services is that they’re third parties. One of my first jobs back in the day was as a food delivery guy (before I graduated to cook) for a local pizza place. Who hasn’t ordered Chinese food and had it delivered? But I worked for the pizza place and the kid making the Chinese food delivery was generally the owner’s son from the place I frequented. These services – Grubhub, Seamless, and others – are a relatively new business. For restaurants that didn’t do a large enough takeout business to hire a delivery person, they opened up new revenue streams. Of course, they come with a cost.

First, there is a human cost. These services pay very low wages and don’t make tipping mandatory (don’t be that guy – tip well, ok?). Then they charge exorbitant, often hidden fees to the restaurants. You might have read about one restaurant owner’s experience. In March, she got 93 orders through Grubhub, totaling to $6,626 in revenue. From that, GrubHub took $1,208 in commission, a $592 delivery fee, and $230 in processing fees, totaling to over 30% of the revenue. In an industry where margins are often low double digits, that’s not sustainable.

We could continue the discussion beginning with why restaurants don’t hire their own delivery people but the point I want to make today which might just apply to your business is about using third parties, especially third parties who end up owning the customer relationship. What is to stop Grubhub from promoting another restaurant to someone who is looking at your menu? Do a search on Yelp for a specific restaurant and you’ll usually see a couple of other promoted alternatives first in the listings. I don’t know what data the restaurant sees when an order comes in via one of these services but at a minimum someone else is privy to a portion of your customer base, their preferences, addresses, etc.

You might have heard of third-party cookies. Third-party cookies are created by domains other than the one you are visiting directly, hence the name third-party. They are used for cross-site tracking, retargeting, and ad-serving. They’re what makes it possible for you to see an Amazon ad for a product you just searched Amazon for on another, unrelated website. They’re going away, in part because of privacy concerns and, I believe, in part because marketers are waking up to the fact that having someone else own data that you help to generate so that they can sell it back to you as well as to your competition is silly.

Industries outsource all the time. Generally, this is because they don’t want to deal with solving a particular problem themselves for whatever reason and it becomes easier to let someone else deal with it. That’s often shortsighted, particularly when it ends up with someone else owning the customer relationship. After all, in business, that’s probably the most important relationship you have, right?

Leave a comment

Filed under food, Huh?

Vividly Dumb

Last week I wrote about my feeling that companies should quit selling as we all deal with the fallout from the Corona Virus. This morning I received an email from Vivid Seats, a ticket reseller. They apparently purchased another reseller from which I’d bought tickets. Here is part of the text:

As a welcome to Vivid Seats, we are giving you $30 off your next purchase!* Grab tickets to your next heart-racing concert or edge-of-your-seat game. Either way, here’s $30 to get you started — let’s get you cheering again!

Notice the asterisk. The offer expires next Tuesday. So where to begin?

First, can any of you say with any certainty when, or if, concerts, shows, or sporting events will resume? Why in the world would you go out and buy tickets to anything at this point? Vivid has a full refund policy if the show or event is canceled, but with this much uncertainty, are you seriously going to lock up your money until that happens? And what if the date changes and you can’t go? Of course, they’ll help you sell your seats, but is that without the 10% fee normally charged to sell? That’s not stated anywhere.

Second, it’s highly unlikely the situation will have changed a heck of a lot by next Tuesday. If you really want my business, why not make it open-ended?

Third, how freaking tone-deaf. We’re all being urged to stay home. Tours are being canceled. I’ve already had two shows for which I have tickets postponed and I’ve got more shows coming up in May that I’m thinking won’t happen. This is a reminder that our lives are different now. Hopefully, not for long, but there are no sports or shows or concerts happening. Why rub it in?

Ok, I believe in giving people hope and this WILL end. That said, it has just as much a chance to crush spirits if the events don’t happen and you bought tickets. This is why these different times call for different approaches, don’t you think?

Leave a comment

Filed under Consulting, Huh?, What's Going On