Have you guys encountered the talking parking fee machine?
You know, the one that keeps repeating the obvious to oblivion.
“Please insert your parking card”
“Please pay your fee by cash or coin”
“Press the receipt button if you require a receipt”
“I have been programmed to say this until a pandemic wipes out all of humanity, which is currently in progress”
Yeah that damn parking machine! Now you remember. I do have two baseball bats, I’m game… let me know when.
So that’s automation in its extremely basic form. Automated to guide or in most cases annoy the crap out of you.
And for a very long time that machine was at the top of my personal automation fail list. Why I have such a list is none of your concern.
And then one fine day this happened.
Lazada has become a behemoth in online retail these days, and I have been an occasional customer for many years. As with all customer-conscious, competition-wary online marketplaces, Lazada decides to reward me for loyalty with a wallet-busting sum of 1 Sen.
Talk about making it rain!
Now I’ll be fair, the intention was laudable. In fact, I’ve received better valued coupons from Lazada before. Like 2, 3 or 5 Ringgits that didn’t make me feel like a complete broke-ass loser.
And that’s what you want a loyal customer to feel, like they’re getting extra value once in a while.
But this was just bordering on insulting, as unintentional it was, is still was insulting. They might as well just click-bait me and tell me I have RM1 million in credit waiting, and then make me enter a contest that I will never win.
Which I think they have done, oh never mind.
So my take is that this is not an intention fail, but an automation fail. While the talking parking fee machine is mainly just annoying, this automated 1 Sen coupon is marketing automation gone awry.
You see, this coupon was issued probably because I hadn’t bought anything for a few months. And so, an algorithm calculated my previous spends and decided that MYR0.01 was the best amount to convince me to return and go cart crazy.
All fair and good. The only part that they completely missed is setting some rules for the algorithm, just a bit of filtering that doesn’t allow anything less than 1 ringgit to be issued as coupons for example.
While we surely can’t expect someone to review all coupons issued, there surely must be some checks and balances built-in to educate the automation and avoid making a mockery of customers. Because we all know how important it is to maintain customer loyalty, I mean just look at these stats by AnnexCloud, a prominent customer marketing platform:
- The chances of converting a new customer are just 15-20% compared to 60-70% with existing customers
- Acquiring a new customer can cost up to 16 times more than retaining existing customers
- Up to 80% of future profits will potentially come from just 20% of existing customers
- 46% of customers will potentially increase business with a company for offering loyalty rewards – anything more than 1 sen will be encouraged
- Existing customers can contribute up to 65% of a company business, whereas only 35% comes from new customers
As a copywriter who has been involved in direct marketing and loyalty programmes from the time of print ad coupons and SMS vouchers, let me tell you this:
Reward appropriately and often to build a loyal, consistent customer base.
So Lazada got it right, until they didn’t. And often, all it takes is one misstep to undo years of trust and relationship building.
Maybe I should send Lazada a physical 1 Sen coin as a token of my appreciation for bestowing a content idea for this blog.
They can use it for the talking parking fee machine I suppose. And it wouldn’t even be accepted. Tough luck!