Making Life Inconvenient For Customers

May 26th, 2016
Steven Howard

Customer Retention Results From Customer Convenience

Convenience is one of the critical 7 Cs of superior customer service.

But sometimes I have to wonder, are organizations in the business of making things more convenient for their customers or for their staffs?

This question was highlighted to me a few years ago on a flight between Singapore and Melbourne. I was traveling on the airline that had made a reputation, right from its creation, as one delivering extraordinary customer service experiences to its passengers. However, on this flight, right outside the toilet door of a brand new aircraft was a sign that read, “Please give priority to crew members.”


Passengers should give priority to crew members when it comes to using the toilet? (Even more surprising, this was on the toilet door located in the First Class section.)

I asked one of the airline stewardesses for an explanation. “Well, we crew members have the need to go to the toilet too, you know?” she said, attempting to make a joke of her reply.

“Yes, I understand that,” I replied in all seriousness. “But aren’t your passengers your customers, and hence they should be given priority?”

She had no reply for this, and neither did her senior in-flight supervisor, when I overheard her ask him the same question. As the senior staff member on board, he should have approached me to see if this was a major concern of mine, or merely an inquisitive quandary. Rather, he chose to ignore me for the remaining five hours of the flight.

I was reminded of this situation when attempting to have a late breakfast one weekend. I stopped by a nice looking restaurant at 11:10 on Saturday morning, deciding to enjoy the beautiful summer-like weather for an al fresco breakfast. The waitress who approached took our coffee order and then proceeded to say, “We stopped serving breakfast at 11 and our lunch service starts at 11:30.”


“Does that mean you do not have any food service between 11:00 and 11:30?” I asked.

“Yes,” she replied. “It gives the cooks time to clean the grills and prepare the ingredients for the lunch menu.”

“I see,” I thought. Here’s a restaurant that understands it is more important to make things more convenient for its kitchen staff than for its customers.

So, for the next twenty minutes all we were able to order were liquid beverages. Not yet hungry for lunch, I moved on.

Of course, customer inconvenience doesn’t only happen in service establishments like airlines and restaurants.

Unfortunately, it occurs way too often in a plethora of companies and organizations across a wide range of industries. Ones that readily come to my mind are:

  • Banks, hotels, car rental companies, and other organizations that require customers to fill in forms with details such as address and telephone numbers, when they already have these details on file. Why can’t these organizations protect a few trees, and save customers much valued time, by eliminating unnecessary paperwork?
  • Magazines that ask customers to fill in address details on their websites when a customer is renewing a subscription. After all, if the magazine is currently being delivered to the correct address, and a customer wants to renew delivery at that address, why must the information be re-keyed in (and risk an entry error)?
  • Doctors, dentists, physios and other medical practitioners who require patients (i.e. customers) to make appointments, and then let these patients sit in over-crowded, uncomfortable waiting rooms to be served 20-30 minutes after the appointed time. This really annoys me when my appointment is early in the morning, and the doctor is already running late before the first hour of the day is complete. When are patients going to start being treated like customers?
  • Companies that cannot commit to a two-hour or three-hour delivery window, thus requiring the customer to “be there” all day waiting for delivery of goods already purchased. Why should a customer have to block off an entire day to wait for the delivery team?
  • Customer service officers who promise to call back when a query or problem cannot immediately be handled on the phone, and then do not! Why make customers wait and wait and wait, and wonder and wonder what is happening?
  • Organizations who require customers to call back to find out how a problem has been resolved, instead of being proactive and contacting the customer via phone, text message, fax, or email immediately when the resolution is determined. Why make the customer call you back?

In each of these instances, it might require a bit more work or effort on the part of the staff to prevent such inconveniences to customers. And yes, it would also require a bit more efficiency within the organization, as well as a more pro-active communications procedure with customers.

However, customers are the reason for your business. Not your staff. Not your shareholders. As such, shouldn’t your systems, processes, and procedures be geared towards greater convenience for your customers?

One of my favorite phrases is “life is too short to drink bad wine.” I think we can paraphrase that for the world of marketing as “life is too short for us to cause wasted time and inconveniences for our customers.”

For those organizations that take this message to heart and act upon it, you will be making one giant stride toward retaining your good customers and attracting equally as good ones through positive word of mouth.


Key Point: your systems, processes, and procedures should be geared toward providing greater convenience for your customers.

Taking Action: conduct an audit, or a mystery shopper, of the experiences customers have with your organization. Where can unnecessary paperwork be eliminated? Where can unnecessary waits by customers be avoided, eliminated, or reduced?

What are the situations that require customers to call back to your organization to find out how a situation or problem is being rectified?  What would be required to change this to a pro-active system where your customers are called as soon as the resolution is determined, thus eliminating call backs by customers?

Ask your staff to start compiling a list of all customer comments, particularly negative statements, regarding inconvenience. Analyze this list for trends, or for new value-added services that you can start to offer.

Analyze your operating hour times, your delivery schedule times, and your telephone center times. What could be done to extend your operating times? What could be done to establish more specified delivery times to customers?


This article is partially excerpted from our book Powerful Marketing Memos, available at Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats.

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