When is a Customer Not a Customer?

Posted on 16 November 2010

I recently had a frustrating experience with an organisation I wanted to support.

This was a non-profit organisation that was presenting an interesting event in Hong Kong. I really wanted to attend the event, so I went to the event website to find out how to get a ticket.

But I couldn’t find any information on the site about how to do that. All I could find was a button saying: “Register here if you have a registration code”. I didn’t HAVE a registration code, and the site offered no information about how to get one.

So I sent an e-mail to the organisation, via the “Contact Us” page on its website, to express my frustration about not being able to find the information I wanted (which meant I didn’t get to attend the event). I confess; I used a mild expletive.

Feeling just a litle bit frustrated

Feeling just a little bit frustrated

Two weeks after the event, I finally received a reply from someone in the organisation. She blasted me for expressing my frustration the way I did. She said the event was “by invitation only” and was sold out, and that since I was not on the guest list I was therefore not “a customer” and had no right to criticise the organisation.

Excuse me?!  I didn’t see any information on the website to suggest that the event was by invitation only or sold out – I wanted to attend the event, and I went to the website to find out how to get a ticket. In my opinion, that made me a customer. And I think frustrated, annoyed customers are entitled to complain.

Also, I’m mystified – if the event was by invitation only, why did the organisation create a website about the event that everybody, even a nobody like me, could read? If there was some process for getting onto the guest list, why didn’t they explain that?

So what are the lessons here for companies and organisations? Think like a customer!  Think about what kind of information people are likely to want/need about your product, service or event, and give it to them in idiot-proof language. And if you don’t do that, don’t be surprised when people who WANT to do business with you (i.e., customers) get annoyed.

Photo credit: Kenneth Lim

2 responses to When is a Customer Not a Customer?

  • Ken says:

    I know which event you are talking about and I too surfed around the site looking for information that didn’t exist.

    And thx for the credit 🙂

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