Monday, 23 March 2015

A case study in how to alienate your customers?

Many people's hopes (including mine) that changes in the Canal and River Trust would lead to better relationships with boaters have been dashed by recent events. Reflecting on CRT's recent attempts to take stronger action against Continuous Cruisers who don't move very far, NABO's open letter to CRT sums up the problems pretty well.

It is difficult to understate how big a failure this episode represents. I think I give no secrets away when I say that colleagues in NABO who have come to Council recently were genuinely determined to try to build bridges with CRT. The presence of new blood, in whom I have great confidence, was a major factor in my feeling able to stand down. Again it is no secret when I suggest that they feel they have been well and truly slapped in the face for their recent efforts.

As a former NABO national officer, the narrative in the open letter comes as no surprise: One sits down in one's own time with CRT/BW, tries to give them constructive advice and feedback on how to implement something difficult and sensitive, taking into account your experience and knowledge of boating and they then do something different, omitting key parts of what you thought you'd just agreed. Seems that the change from BW to CRT has not changed that?

Of course CRT's first press release on 13 Feb didn't say how far they thought boaters should move over a period to avoid the threat of enforcement action, this being rather critical information. What was going through CRT's heads when they omitted to publish what had been agreed on this? Did it really not occur to someone in CRT that threatening boaters with withdrawing boat licences but not telling them the criteria on which that action would occur might upset a few people?  

Well the fact is they were told in no uncertain terms of the sensitivity and yet still got it wrong! "At the meeting of the associations it is minuted that Richard Parry and Denise Yelland were going to prepare a clear response to the question “how far should I travel to comply?” Regrettably this has not been the case."

CRT then poured petrol on to the flames by sending out a letter to all Continuous Cruisers including those who had never come on to the enforcement radar. That letter was also vague about how far is far enough. As Mark T of NABO observed it's a bit like a supermarket writing to all loyalty card customers warning them not to shoplift!

After a couple of weeks and a good deal of  criticism on social media etc, it finally dawned, that saying how far boaters needed to move to avoid having their licences revoked was after all a better idea than just letting people to guess!

So all in all, instead of putting pressure on those boaters who blatantly don't move very far (and let's not start as to whether that is a legitimate aim in itself), CRT have instead pissed off almost all of their continuous cruising customers. Well done!

PS; if you have a home mooring they have not forgotten you either!
Mutton dressed up as lamb

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