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When will they ever learn?

I’ve been a member of the AA (the roadside recovery organisation, not the other one) for years and years. Apparently this makes me a gold member which doesn’t mean much except I get a special key ring. I’m about to embark on a week’s holiday in northern Europe with a mate of mine and since we are travelling by car, I phoned the AA to make sure it is covered in case of break down. As with all these large organisations the first thing that happens when you phone is a voice recording asking what service you want. You go through two or three minutes of automated questions including some sales spiel before you get through to an operator. Now, I don’t know about you but this doesn’t set the call up in the best possible way. By the time the poor operator answers the phone I am feeling irritable. All I want to know is “is my car covered and, if not, how much extra will it cost?”.

After lots of questions to verify who I am, the operator tells me that it will take around 10 minutes to provide a quote. “Ten minutes” I think. “What on earth can they want to know that will take 10 minutes when they already have all my details”. It turns out that all my details need to be obtained afresh including a myriad of questions about whether I will have a bike, a roof rack, whether I’m travelling on business or pleasure, whether I will be travelling later in the year and so on. We raced through these questions and I agree to pay for the additional cover.

And then the operator stuns me with a new question. “Would I like to know the number to phone in case I have a breakdown?”.

“No”, I said, “I already have the telephone number; it’s on my AA card”.

“Oh no”, she says, “you will need a new number if you are on the continent”.

I’m already irritated by the preamble and the many questions and now I am being asked if I would like the telephone number to call in case the car breaks down. “Like, YES PLEASE. Isn’t that the whole reason I’ve taken out the insurance?”.

The point I am getting to is something that we are all aware of. Businesses need to have security checks on who they are speaking to. They need to ensure that they have collected all the necessary details. But businesses also need to make their customers happy and provide a good customer experience. Does the AA really know how annoyed I felt at the end of that call?

The Financial Times the other day had a list of the world’s 100 biggest global brands in 2019. Two brands caught my eye – Amazon (ranked #1 on the list) and Netflix (ranked #34). This reminded me of an event a few years ago when I visited the Blockbuster store in Marple, the small town where I live. I wanted to rent a video and I wasn’t a customer. I perused the stock of videos, chose one and went to the desk to pay the rental charge. The person at the desk asked if I was a Blockbuster customer and I explained that I was hoping to be, but what did her question mean. She explained that in order to rent the video I would need to go home, and return with various items of identification such as a driving licence, passport, utility bills and so on. As I wanted the video there and then, going home to collect this paraphernalia did not appeal to me. I asked if the array of credit cards I was carrying would be sufficient identification. Apparently they would not. I introduced her to my dog. The name on his collar had our address (as they do). No way. Not good enough. I could have hired a car from Hertz more easily than getting hold of that video. In the event, I stormed out of the shop and never visited Blockbuster again. And, as we all know, Blockbuster is with us no more; Netflix has taken over.

And that is my point about Amazon and Netflix. These successful companies make life easy for the customer. And so do the other companies at the top of the 100 global brands list – Apple (#2), Google (#3), Microsoft (#4), Visa (#5). I won’t bore you with the whole list but it is made up of companies that serve you fast or that make your life easy. Are you listening AA?


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