A couple of days ago, I received a membership renewal notice from AAA. This #inyourface graphic was right at the top:

Why AAA Should Be Worried

Whoa!!! Panic stations, people, move out of the WAY, Lola, I need to grab my wallet now now now NOW.

But before my anxious little (and still sore from the 5 stitches I got last week) fingers could plug in my credit card info, I remembered something. That far from needing to “renew NOW,” we have three months – NINETY DAYS – before our renewal is due.

And I got really pissed off.

It’s not that I’m not used to early renewal reminders and urgent appeals coming through our mail slot (yes, still) and inboxes. It’s actually kinda fun to read them.

You know, from an objective marketing POV (“Boy, that sucks, let me file that away in the what-not-to-do folder” or “Oh, good one, I should steal that!”).

But when I’m being blatantly lied to? That pisses me off.

I know people habitually renew at the last minute. So multiple reminders are part of the deal.

But how these reminders are MESSAGED is equally important. Be creative, evoke whatever emotion you’re going for … do all those things you’re supposed to do.

But don’t lie.

Here’s what I did when I realized AAA was trying to hustle me into dropping my wallet on its driver seat sooner than usual:

  • I remembered reading something about an app/service from Verizon that is basically the poor cousin of OnStar
  • Googled “on star from verizon” (I kid you not) which took me to a PCMag review of “Hum”
  • Saw that there are OTHER on-demand apps I could use for roadside assistance that don’t require a monthly subscription/two-year commitment (Hum apparently does)

… and now I had a list of at least 5 apps to look at, and chat about with Mr. B before we decided whether or not to renew with AAA.

Because, really, what do use our AAA membership for?

Roadside assistance, which we’ve used maybe 3 times in 17 years. And which is included in our auto insurance policy (GEICO, because 15 minutes did save me 15% or more and still does).

That is literally the only reason we keep our AAA membership.

We don’t get the magazine, don’t really have a use for the various discounts, are very happy with GEICO so don’t plan on switching from there …

So why are we dropping a hundred+ bucks on AAA??

Peace of mind, basically.

Sure, the on-demand apps have some kinks to work out. But I’m fairly confident that in a year or two, maybe much less, they will be far better than they are now.

And if I can get the same peace of mind from GEICO and use on-demand apps to supplement it, then that’s $120-odd I’d rather put somewhere else, like savings, or donate to a charity.

This was a AAA-instigated rant, but really, it could have been any company that is not thoughtful about its communications.

The point I’m making is this:

We live in an on-demand world. And we don’t just want to pay only for what we use, we are demanding more options, more flexibility, better customer service … and that means better communications.

“Come on, Shonali, it was one email,” you might be thinking.

And you’re right. It was just one email.

But that ONE email made me stop and think about the value I’m not getting from my AAA membership. So their typical B+ suddenly became a C- which may turn into $0 from Casa Burke.

Scratch that. The B+ => C- = $0 from Casa Burke as of last night.

What if this starts happening with multiple households, whether it’s sparked by an email, or a rude phone operator, or …?

Suddenly AAA might need some roadside assistance of its own.

Three things to mull over as you grill your way through the holiday weekend:

1. Messaging matters.

If you’ve been winging it thus far at work, time to slow down and be more mindful about it.

2. Treating your customers like people v. credit cards matters. 

Thanks to the wonders of email marketing, you can automate a LOT. And you should take advantage of those fab features, for the sake of efficiency.

But when it leads to your customers feeling more like credit cards … that’s not so good.

3. Truth matters.

Above all else, truth matters. And you are NOT going to have happy customers in the long run if you cut corners with – wait for it – your messaging and cookie cutter approach in the short term.

Happy holiday weekend, everyone! Be safe, don’t burn yourself (or anyone else) and if you’re driving somewhere, don’t get a flat :).

Shonali Burke
Founder and publisher of Waxing UnLyrical, Shonali Burke helps purpose-driven brands bring big ideas to life. She teaches at The Johns Hopkins University, has gone back to school herself with the Harvard Business Analytics Program, and is creator/lead instructor at The Social PR Virtuoso® online training hub , where ambitious PR pros learn how to unleash their inner Social PR superheroes. Owned by Lola the Basset Hound, she's mad about ABBA, bacon, cooking, dogs, and Elvis, though not necessarily in that order. Wouldn't you like to be in her kitchen?
Shonali Burke
Shonali Burke

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