It was with interest that I read an article about a man going into a Spark store to pay his telephone utilities bill whereby the store refused to take cash as a payment. What interested me the most about this was my 80 year old father-in-law running into the same situation a few weeks ago. Even if he went to a NZ Post store, he could pay by cash but would incur an additional handling fee.

I struggle getting my head around how businesses operate in this fashion, especially when the telco's are finding their industry to be so competitive. Just last week both Spark and Vodafone NZ announced the need to lay-off significant numbers of staff (significant for tiny little New Zealand).

When my father-in-law shared his experience with my wife and I, the first thing we said was "leave". It would appear that my generation has little or no tolerance for this sort of behaviour. If we don't like something, we know that we have a choice and therefore we look elsewhere. With our ability to access the internet, we can reassign our services to other utilities company with minutes.

The problem is that for people like my father-in-law, he has been a loyal customer of Spark right through several buyouts. From the good old days of Spark being a state owned enterprise known as NZ Post, then Telecom and now known Spark (a rebrand). Now, he has trouble adapting to change as almost everything becomes electronic. This is the man who has a mobile phone that rarely leaves the kitchen bench! He once had a computer at home to play solitaire, but as with all great technology that didn't last for ever.

Like most of our friends, my wife and I have next to no tolerance of bad service or things happening that we as customers don't like. We always weigh up the pro's and con's of taking our business elsewhere and sometimes chose to remain as an unhappy customer. Even with the variety of options, often there is no good alternative.

I have reviewed a lot of research over the last couple of years that would suggest that one of the top 5 key priorities for the CEO (Chief Executive Officer) is to increase customer loyalty. What I am seeing on the consumer side of the equation is that consumers don't provide loyalty when they don't feel that loyalty is returned.

While Social Media is a great platform for people to make buying decisions, so is the ability to have real-life interaction. When it comes to making a buying decision, a negative review may/will determine a positive or negative buying decision. Big deal, right? The bigger deal is an existing and loyalty customer sharing a bad experience. Younger generations, like mine (who are not so young any more) are actively encourage the loyal customer to take their business elsewhere. The loyal customer is persuaded or even pressured to make a move.

The majority of comments here on my blog, talk about customer experience. It's something that I am passionate about.  We need to be listening to our customers and we need to ensure that it is easy for our customers to do business with us. It doesn't matter if we are B2B or B2C. What does matter is that we provide an exceptional service from start to finish and thereafter if need be.

Another key priority for most CEO's is to increase customer engagement. Better customer engagement generally leads to better sales. Let's put the two together shall we, better customer engagement and customer loyalty must be a great concoction!

If Spark are to invest in having retail outlets then they have an opportunity to engage with their customers in person as they walk into a real-life store. They have the can to talk to them about their needs and to help them to find solutions. Also, known as 'sales'. The cost of selling something to an existing customer is a lot lower than trying to acquire a new customer.

Photo provided under (cc) license by Abaconda Management Group