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"Happy Birthday from ABC Ford" - Good Plan, Crummy Execution

Just the other day, I got this really nice email from an auto dealer from whom I had leased or purchased several vehicles in the past. It said simply in the subject line - Happy Birthday from ABC Ford (I have substituted ABC for their name to protect the guilty). And in the body of the email "my friends from ABC" wished me a happy birthday and presented me with a birthday service special for my Ford Expedition, which they hoped I was enjoying. Two problems with that. First, it wasn't my birthday (same day, wrong month). Second, even worse, I haven't owned an Expedition since 2008.

So what could have been a very thoughtful way to both re-affirm a relationship with a customer and build on that relationship with a discounted service, only left me shaking my head. Their lack of up-to-date customer data turned an attempt at a good customer service advance into just making them look dumb. If they couldn't even establish that I was still a customer or what my birthday was (both of which they had at one time), how "buttoned up" could the management of their dealership be? A good customer service plan scuttled by poor execution. A positive turned into a negative.

And how often have we seen this situation? Probably, way more times than we care to even think about. And it is so avoidable!

Usually, even within a small company it's a right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing. Where marketing puts a good direct marketing plan together only to have the IT guy drop the ball by providing an old data base for the direct marketing. Or worse, marketing not even asking IT for the right database, but just using one that they had had for a while, assuming it was correct.

And what is the takeaway from this?

Customer-facing functions like marketing and customer service are not functions that should exist on their own. They need other functions in the company to support their efforts. But, even more important, since they are functions that interact directly with prospects and customers, they are the lifeblood of a company's present and future revenue streams. In fact, anything that involves customers, especially, should be a company-wide responsibility with ownership by every function. And finally, communication within the organization is essential. Plans should be shared, support should be sought, so that the company comes across in the best possible light with customers and achieves whatever objectives the program had.

Take my situation. If they had planned to contact old customers, wishing them a happy birthday would have been a very thoughtful and impressive thing. Including an invitation for a test drive of a brand new vehicle (maybe like one I had purchased in the past) or, a special leasing deal to "get me back," would have been a great program and might have actually gotten my attention. However, clearly, it was aimed at "existing" customers, with the special servicing deal. So it was a double loss. It went to a wrong or old database with the wrong offer. All those precious marketing dollars...wasted. And it could have been avoided.

Creating good marketing and customer service plans and programs are necessary for a small business to grow and succeed. Company-wide ownership of them and their execution should be the basis for that success.

"The Entrepreneur's Yoda" knows these things. He's been there. May success be with you!

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