A few months ago, my wife and I decided to move our family to the foothills just outside of Denver, CO., right along the edge of the beautiful Rocky Mountains. We have a spacious five-acre lot, which is mostly rolling hills and towering Ponderosa Pine trees. It’s our little piece of paradise. Unfortunately, there aren’t quality Internet providers out here in “paradise.” As a matter of fact, the only option is satellite Internet. When we moved in, we decided to go with the company that advertised the most. For the sake of this post, I will refer to them as Badsignal.net.
Immediately after the installation of our new satellite, the internet was moving at a snail’s pace. We started testing the capabilities of our connection, and within a few days, I was on the phone calling in to Badsignal.net’s customer service line to discuss the performance issue. Keep in mind, being in the telecom field, I genuinely understand how satellite Internet service works, so I came prepared for the call with data collected from six different speed tests, and other performance metrics, to help the customer service technician diagnose the issue at hand.
Almost immediately, the technician insisted that the problem was with my equipment and that there was nothing they could do. “Of course,” I thought, rolling my eyes, “it’s my fault.” The technician did not perform any tests and refused to review any of the data I had personally collected. The call was abrupt, and didn’t accomplish anything.
Ok, time out. As a telecom technology consultant, I hear this excuse on a regular basis and constantly see companies passing the blame to the customer to avoid taking accountability for the issue at hand. Using my story as an example, let’s stop for a minute and think about my experience as a customer of Badsignal.net.
This phone call marked my very first request for help, and my very first interaction with Badsignal.net’s customer service support. To say that my experience was disappointing would be an understatement. How does it make you feel when you take the time to call a company and ask for help and receive none? Are you going to recommend this company? Of course not.
After 20 minutes of debate and a slew of standard scripted responses from the technician on the other end of the line, it was clear that they were not going to provide any solutions. With quality customer service and a genuine concern for my satisfaction with their services, they could have solidified me as a customer for life; instead, they avoided my problem entirely, and in doing so, accomplished quite the opposite. This experience with Badsignal.net’s customer service left me with that uncomfortable feeling in my gut, because I knew that this was just a mere glimpse of their overall culture as a company.
So what next?
As a customer I feel misled. I have buyer’s remorse, and unfortunately in this particular case, I have a two-year service contract. Quite honestly, I am frustrated because there is no solution to my problem. Each customer service rep did their job and stuck to their scripted responses. They passed the buck on to me, both literally and figuratively.
Business Lost Due To Poor Customer Service
Think about how much time and resources this company must have dedicated toward training their reps to actively avoid problem resolution? Do companies really save money by avoiding problems? Quite the opposite actually. According to a 2014 NewVoiceMedia study, U.S. businesses lose $41 billion per year due to poor customer service. Or how about this? Were you aware that many companies build something called a “customer churn ratio” into their business plans? In today’s business culture losing customers is not a problem, it’s just a ratio that must be factored in to the bottom line.
When I explained to a second customer service rep that I needed better internet performance, and if they were unable help me, I would find another provider who could, this representative immediately offered to transfer me to another agent who could help me cancel my contract altogether. Cancelling my contract would have resulted in Early Termination Fees. This wasn’t a real solution. This was a business strategy! Remember, I signed a two-year contract for service, and if I canceled my service after installation, I would owe Badsignal.net the monthly recurring charges multiplied by the number of remaining months in my contract. What would be more profitable to Badsignal.net? A customer that requires support, service, and the use of their equipment? Or a customer who signs up for service and then cancels. If Badsignal.net could recover Early Termination Fees, they will still receive the revenue without all of the expenses, and that is definitely more profitable.
Focus on Quick Dollars Instead of Retention
Unfortunately, this type of “take-advantage-of-your-customer” strategy makes sense. USA Today reported that in the airline industry, American Airlines, combined with US Airways, sucked an eye-popping $815 million in ticket-change fees out of our wallets in 2012, the most of any domestic airline.
What if companies focused on customer retention instead of customer churn? Would they be able to offer lower prices instead of higher price to compensate for lost revenue?
Single Source Telecom Focus
As a business owner, I strive for my employees to be customer advocates and to fight for what is best and, most importantly, what is fair. Sometimes the right decision is not always what’s right for your business. Putting the customer first means that sometimes you lose revenue, but you hope that the customer returns or recommends your company because you did the right thing. In my opinion, customer service is not about who is at fault or even trying to resolve each request during the first interaction. The customer’s experience and the customer service your company provides is completely dependent upon how you communicate and the message that you communicate. When problems arise, do you stick your head in the sand or do you pick up the phone to make that difficult call? Customer service is about being accountable and maintaining the expectation your customer payed good money for.
Throughout the years, I’ve made a few mistakes and I’ve found that being honest strengthens customer relationships. When you engage a customer with a problem, that problem transforms into an opportunity in which you and the customer partner together to determine a feasible and fair solution. A customer trusts you with their business and therefore should be treated with respect. At least enough respect to provide them with a solution when they ask for your help.
Customer Advocate wanna be Rock star.