Is Customer Hindrance, and is defined as a company’s ability to make it harder, more expensive and less rewarding for their customers to do business with them.

Perhaps surprisingly, many companies still think that this is the way to go in driving profits and growth. In the last 72 hours, for example, I’ve come across these three examples of ‘excellence’ in customer hindrance:

  1. The Post Office. I wanted to send 100 ‘large letters’ first class. The cost per letter was 96 pence, and so I asked for 100 of these stamps. “Oh sorry,” said ‘Cashier Number 2’, “they don’t make 96 pence stamps. You can either get a 90p, 5p and a 1p or buy some 97 pence stamps.” Thinking of the health of my tongue, I paid the £97 and quickly left. But how can Royal Mail impose a standard charge of 96p without a stamp to back it up?
  2. LloydsTSB. There was a queue of about 5 people in the bank yesterday. Luckily there were three cashiers and so I expected that I would be seen pretty quickly. What I hadn’t realised was that two of the three cashiers were in place, not to serve customers, but to mindlessly tap away on over-sized calculators and ignore and frustrate the people who want to do business with them. Perhaps I should have known better. After all, this is the same bank that still hasn’t processed the credit card application I completed in December last year – even though I kindly filled out a second form in February!
  3. Sports Direct. Yes, I know, what do I expect from a low price, bargain-bin store? Well, foolishly my wife had hoped for a tiny bit of common sense and an ability of the store manager to ‘do the right thing’. My son spent his £10 Sports Direct voucher on a new football (he only had 10 already, poor thing), but two days later it was flat due to a faulty valve. My wife took it back, knowing that if the goods were defective the receipt, which she’d mislaid, was not required. The store manager refused to accept any responsibility, repeatedly reciting this mantra, “Our policy says, our policy says, our policy says….”

Delivering stand-out customer service is not so hard when the competition has such low standards. It simply requires that you remove the hindrances that make it harder for your potential customers to do business with you. Unfortunately, this is an approach that the Post Office, LloydsTSB and Sports Direct have yet to master.

© Stuart Cross 2010. All rights reserved.