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  • How Not To Serve Your Customers

    I have a problem with cell phones. My cell phone typically lasts about a year until I need to replace it because I’ve dropped it too many times.

    Until this year.

    I’m currently on my third cell phone since spring. No, I’m not just a klutz. Not usually, anyway.

    My phone tends to get dropped when I’m trying to load kids and groceries into the car, or trying to find my phone and make a call while carrying student projects home to be graded.

    The fact that my life, and cell phone, would benefit immensely from a slower lifestyle and less stress is obvious. Many of us are living life at an insane pace – and that’s why we like cell phones.

    Why am I telling you a story about cell phones anyway?

    A basic retail concept is that it costs about five times more to acquire a new customer, than it does to keep a current customer. It makes sense to serve the customers you have as well as you can.

    But cell phone companies don’t seem to understand this.

    Cell phone companies are totally caught up in the fight to acquire new customers. With free cell phones for new customers, and ‘My Faves‘ type promotions, they work to persuade users to switch providers. Cell phone companies are totally ignoring their best customers – the ones that don’t switch.

    Actually, I should correct myself. Cell phone companies are not ignoring us. They are penalizing us for being loyal customers. The customers who stay with the company are the ones who pay the costs of all these promotions.

    I’m not the only one who drops my phone. According to the Rogers website, “The two most common causes of damage are dropping your phone and exposure to moisture.”

    How to drive away customers.

    The first time I dropped my phone, I tried to get it fixed. I called Rogers customer service and was told that I could take my phone to their store in a particular mall near me. So I did. When I got there, I was told that I needed my original receipt for the phone so that they could see the date when I purchased it.

    Why couldn’t the service rep on the phone have mentioned that? Secondly, why can the service rep on the phone pull up my records electronically but it can’t be done in the store?

    I went home and came back with the receipt. Then I was told that it would take 2-3 weeks to have my phone shipped out and returned to me. They have a courtesy phone program, but unfortunately the waiting list for courtesy phones was huge and I wouldn’t get one.

    My cell phone is by business phone, so being unavailable for 3 weeks was out of the question. Next, the rep informed me that I could take my phone in person to the store where some repairs are actually done, and see what they say. Another piece of valuable information that the phone rep could have told me in the first place.

    Since I’ve already spent the better part of an afternoon on this, I was not thrilled about driving to yet another mall, for more of this infuriating service. The sales rep offered a new phone. I had spent enough money in my contract to ‘qualify’ for new phone and only pay $50 bucks for the most basic phone – if I sent in the mail-in rebate on time.

    So – I went home, much relieved, with a new phone.

    A year later, I drop this phone. I don’t even consider getting it fixed after the last fiasco. I go in to replace it. This time I’m told that it is going to cost me nearly $400 bucks to get a replacement basic phone.

    The rep told me that if I phoned customer service instead, I could get a phone for cheaper, but he couldn’t do that for me in the store. However, if I called customer service, it would take 2 weeks for the new phone to arrive at my house. Too long.

    Apparently, I could tell the telephone rep I was unable to wait that long. Then I would be able to pick up the new phone at the store instead of waiting for it to be mailed.

    So, if I drove home, phoned customer service, told them I needed a new phone, I could drive back to the same store and pick it up for a lower price. How ludicrous!

    I expressed my displeasure with these service policies that actually encourage users to switch to another company. The rep shrugged and said, “Well, then you have to buy out the rest of your contract.”

    I was tired of arguing. I said, “Just give me a phone!” At the end of the transaction, the rep said, “Oh, I have to add a service charge (around $30-35) but you can probably get it reversed if you call customer service and ask them.” So, the overall cost was over $400, and I had homework to do to: send in a mail-in rebate, and call customer service for a discount. Arrgh!

    Two months later, the screen just stopped working. This time I called customer service first. They had me check the phone for potential moisture damage which would void the warranty. There was none. So they sent a new phone. It’s french. Which matters little to me practically, but made me feel like my replacement phone is ‘leftover’ stock.

    I don’t feel like a valued customer.

    A week later, I’m in a hurry, and one of the kids is yelling. In my rushing, the clip on my phone holder slips, and the phone falls into the toilet.

    I’m devastated. The thought of dealing with Rogers again terrifies me.

    After letting the phone dry out, I search & search for cell phone repair in Vancouver. I come up with several businesses in Toronto. The Rogers site says in bold, “Phones that are moisture damaged cannot be repaired.”

    I also come across this statement “Customer satisfaction means everything to us at Rogers Wireless. We do our best to make the repair process as seamless as possible.” This tells me that management is not aware of what is going on at the customer level.

    Then I discover a forum post responding to someone else who had a wet phone. There is phone number listed for repairs. This looks a little dodgy, so I Google the number. It’s listed to a business in Richmond, and has a little website. I phone them up.

    Customers want you to solve their problem.

    The man that answers is lovely. He tells me a wet phone is no problem. He needs to see it first, but he figures it’ll cost $70. I ask him how long it’ll take. He says, “Two hours.” I’m immensely relieved, although still a little nervous.

    I take the phone in, drop it off. The man I had spoken to on the phone, and a woman at the desk are so reassuring and wonderful to deal with. The next day they phone me, one hour after they open, and tell me the phone is ready.

    Totally stress-free and easy.

    Unless you count trying to drive in Richmond on a weekend in November. But that’s another rant.

    Make it easy for customers to do business with you.

    Think about your sales processes from beginning to end. Make sure it is easy for customers to find what they need, pay, and leave. But don’t stop there.

    Anticipate customer problems. Create a smooth process for resolving customer complaints and returns. Problems are an opportunity for you to please the customer. If you can solve their problem, you will gain a more loyal customer than you had before.

    Notice that the key is in how the customer feels. If you can turn feelings of frustration and anxiety into feelings of relief and reduced stress, you will have a customer who keeps coming back.

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