Business 101

Would you bother with a company that had an answerphone message that said 'Hi, leave your details, but we won't get back to you and you'd be better off buying from someone else.'?

I hate BMWs.

Actually, that's not quite true. If someone were to give me a BMW I would probably fall at their feet in a contented grovelling puddle.

No, perhaps it's BMW drivers that I hate. They seem to think that along with the leather steering wheel, the straight six engine and the impeccable sound system that makes it sound like Norah Jones is lazing around in the back seat, they were also sold the right to do whatever they like on the road.

Perhaps I'm just jealous, though I was recently talking to Geoff Cossey from customer management software specialist Chillisoft and was pleased to hear that he, too, wasn't originally keen on the German marque. He told me the sad, sorry tale of how he came to own a Beemer, which I'll relate to you here.

He drove another well-known German car and was looking to upgrade it, so rang around a handful of dealers in Auckland explaining what he was after and how much he wanted to spend. Could they give him a list of cars that met those requirements, please?

Three weeks went by and not one car yard called him back.

Disgruntled, he took himself off for a walk and ended up at a BMW dealership, where he was lured across the threshold. Soon a young salesman came over and enquired as to just what he was after. One discussion later and he was asked to sign their visitors' book, which is an amusing idea. So he did. The next day he received a letter from the yard's owner thanking him for his visit and offering him a ticket to a golf day they were having, and a glossy brochure. Soon after the young salesman rang and asked if he was still looking for a car as he had one he felt matched Cossey's requirements and he could bring it round that afternoon.

That's right -- he'd bring it round. Cossey soon found himself the proud owner of a BMW.

We were talking about this because Cossey had read Dial Tone from a couple of weeks back (Coming soon: online service), about not being able to make contact with organisations even after they put up websites loaded with contact forms and information. As Cossey says, would you bother with a company that had an answerphone message that said "Hi, leave your details but we won't get back to you and you'd be better off buying from someone else."?

I've received a chunk of feedback on the column -- it seems many of you are also less than impressed by the kind of responses you get from the online world. Oddly, neither the British High Commission or Griffins have contacted me, but that would be expecting too much, I suspect.

Being of a grumpy disposition I tend to simply moan about the fact that companies don't understand and misuse the internet -- which then get upset that they've spent a lot of money for little gain. "Why oh why doesn't anyone use our lousy website?" they cry.

Cossey is a much more positive person. Chillisoft is about to launch an award programme for those sites that do get it, that go the extra mile and that make life easier for their customers. Once it's up and running you should have a look -- nominate those companies that really do make a difference. I'll offer up Real Groovy and Marbecks as two that have been good straight off the bat.

It's not that difficult really. If your customers want to give you money, you should help them out because if you don't then someone else will. Business 101.

Oh, if anyone from BMW is reading this, I'm quite partial to your new 325, preferably an auto with the six cylinder engine although I'd have a go in the Z4 if I really had to. And I promise to uphold the BMW driver credo to the best of my abilities.

Brislen is IDGNet’s reporter. Send letters for publication in Computerworld to Computerworld Letters.

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