Tag Archives: customer service

How to lose a customer, How to gain a customer

In today’s world people’s need for instant gratification is stronger than ever. We don’t have to go to the video store any more, we can just play movies instantly on Netflix. So Blockbuster loses customers after all the years of pissing people off by charging ridiculous late fees and having an inferior product. Why would I pay crazy rental fees at Blockbuster, when I can pay $9.99 a month to watch as much as I want? Now they are going out of business. Same thing with Borders books. Why would I go to the bookstore and spend $3.45 a gallon on gas, when I can just download the book to my iPad from wherever I am in the world with an Internet connection? Why would I pay $30 for a book when I could have it instantly for $9.99, or for $4 if I bought it used from Amazon? These are just two examples that immediately come to mind as I am watching what used to be two powerhouse companies shut their doors in Tampa and around the country.

This is not a trend that’s going away. It will only get worse as technology improves, and as the younger generations who are used to it get older, making up a greater part of our population. If you don’t think this affects your business, or the business that you work for you should stop being naive. It affects all businesses and organizations. How much software do you still get on CD? Heck how much software do you still install on your computer? It seems like a new SAAS (Software as a Service) provider pops up every two minutes, with great products most of the time.  Why would I want to install software on one computer, or many of them for that matter, when I can access my software through any device that has Internet access and a web browser?

Today Zephyrhills lost me as a customer to a smaller, cheaper, more agile competitor. After receiving my $71.00 water delivery bill from them, I gave them a call to see why I was being charged $7.00 a bottle for water. They informed me that it was because the price automatically goes up after a year. I’ve had service with them for 2 years, so I’m not sure I buy that. The person on the other end also had a very hard time speaking English. On a side note, if you really want to lose customers, hire workers lacking this most important skill set to answer your phones. You might as well stop offering phone support all together. You probably wouldn’t aggravate as many people.  After getting frustrated with the rep and the answers I was getting, I was transferred to speak to someone about changing my service. At my old office I had a water filtration system instead of the water bottles and it was considerably more cost effective. It was also nice not to lug and store 40lb water bottles that needed to be replaced every two days. I was interested in getting this installed again. The new rep, who could speak English, informed me that she needed to contact the installer to answer some of my questions and that he would be giving me a call back. After two days of not receiving a call back, I decided to call the a competitor, Arctic Spring. They were friendly, answered all of my questions competently, spoke English, had the product I wanted, and could install the next day. One more thing, they were $25 per month, with a $20 install fee! So I get similar water, my bill is cut into a third, they have good customer service, they are local, I have a person I can call instead of a company, and they came out to install the next day. Zephyrhills couldn’t even give me a call back the next day.

Folks this type of stuff is going on all around us. This is a real life example of how companies are changing the game to put a beat down on their competition. The old way, just doesn’t work anymore. The important question to ask is this; is your company Zephyrhills or Arctic Spring?

Take the road less travelled and admit you’re wrong

I’m not one for New Years Resolutions, because I don’t think the clock striking midnight, marking the passing of one year into the next is a good reason to do anything. You will most likely fail on your endeavor whatever it might be. While choosing to do something because a specific day has passed on the calendar could be considered a reason, it isn’t the right one. One of the key aspects in setting and achieving goals is that they have to be for you. This is the right reason. You will have the proper motivation required to accomplish your mission. So what does this have to do with admitting you’re wrong?

One good thing about the end of the year is that it’s good for reflection. The proverbial clean slate that you have on January 1st, prepares your mind to sit back and look at the year in review. A year is a measurable unit, so it allows us to contain that reflection into something that is quantifiable. We can look back on the year and see where we started, and how we’re ending. We can take a good look at our progression and if we are closer towards fulfilling whatever it is that we consider our mission in life to be.

One of the realizations that came out of this end of year period for me, was that I need to be better at admitting I’m wrong. I have a real bad tendency of becoming an ostrich when things don’t go the way I intended. Gladly I can say that I’m not big on carrying out malicious acts, but I do make mistakes. Sadly I’m not always ready to admit it.

So here are a few ways I plan to address it:

  1. Respond Quickly – If something bad has happened, you need to own it quickly. By letting things linger only allows for the ostrich tendency to grow stronger. The sooner you address something, the faster it can be resolved. It also doesn’t have the chance to become a mountain, when initially it’s only a molehill. When you avoid things, they usually seem to get worse. Let’s take a backyard as an example. If you don’t mow for a while, the issue becomes more then just cutting the grass. Now not only do you have to mow, you also need to rid it of the pests, weeds and whatever else has made itself a new home. The scary thing is when the same thing happens with relationships.
  2. Understand where you are going wrong consistently – We all have our weaknesses. Mine tends to be making promises I can’t keep. I have a really bad habit of over extending myself. My biggest issue with this is on project due dates. In the web consulting business, your clients typically want the work done as soon as inhumanly possible. For some reason I always agree that the unattainable target can be hit. Just before I agree to it, I get that uneasy feeling in my stomach. But for some reason I think I can just put on a cape and play super hero, simply because I have done it before. Guess what? That leads to burnout. You begin to resent whatever it is you promised rather than carrying out your work joyfully. Everything we do in life should be done with joy in our hearts, even if it is the hard stuff. The hard stuff makes us grow. With that said, you shouldn’t put yourself in a hard situation when you know better. That’s not called growth. That’s called stupid. Whenever I write a check for a promise I can’t keep, I start to get real sketchy as I realize I won’t be able to cash it out. This goes along with number 1. The sooner you admit to something, the sooner you can correct it. If you can prevent it however, that’s better than any cure. Figure out what it is that you should be apologizing for, and then stop doing it.
  3. Consider the worst case scenario – So you aren’t going to be done with a project on time. Part of what would keep me from admitting this to a client is the fear of how they might respond. That’s because I’m not considering the worst case scenario. Are they going to take my family from me? No. Are they going to cut my head off? No. Are they going to take everything I own? No. Are the going to fire me? Most likely no, especially if I admit that I’m wrong as soon as I realize it. People understand that other people will make mistakes. If they don’t they are jerks and you’re better off not to deal with them anymore. What people don’t understand is when people make mistakes and then fail to admit their wrong doing. That makes the scenario go from how do we fix it to you’re fired. The point here is, there can be some pretty bad outcomes this is true. However when the worst case scenario is taken into consideration, these outcomes are rarely as bad as we think they are. They also tend to be a little less bad when you address them sooner. Remember problems cannot be given time to grow if you can help it. Sorry to beat a dead horse here.
  4. Be candid - No play on words intended here, but I do feel like a hypocrite. When the name Candid was chosen for my company I wanted it to be because we shot straight and never sugar coated things. When you have to admit you’re wrong, give the whole truth and nothing, but the truth. Admitting you are wrong, but leaving out details is lying. You are immediately causing another problem when you are working on fixing another. When you are wrong, just admit what has transpired, don’t try to cover it, and take it from there. In the past instead of saying I’m going to be late with something, I have chosen to beat around the bush. If you need more time, ask for it. If lost data, admit to it, then outline what you have done to make sure it won’t happen again.

So this is great. I’m resolving to make a change. I came up with some ways to address my problem so I can be successful with it.  So how can I make sure that this change actually takes place? Well besides knowing what the status quo is like from being myself for the past 30 years, I also ask my clients. I recently sent out a survey asking how we did in 2010. I will go more into detail about how to do this in another post, but briefly all I did was ask them to rate our performance as Great, OK, or Not Good. The next thing I asked was for them to explain their rating in whatever level of detail they wanted, including not at all. Gladly most results were Great, but a few were OK. All of the OKs had a lot to do with what I outlined above. This did not come as a surprise whatsoever because I’m well aware of this problem. So to answer the question, I plan to turn all the OKs to Greats. I also don’t want to see this come up as an issue in the 2011 survey. This will be hit or miss. I will have succeeded if it is absent, otherwise I will still need to work on it. To make sure that I learn about my progress throughout the year, I plan to send the survey out at the conclusion of each project, no matter how big or small. A year is too long to wait to see if you are doing the right thing. You need to stop along the way and make sure you are still headed down the right path.

At the end of the day, when we have done something wrong, we will feel guilty as a result. The only way to release that guilt and get things back to where we need to be is to admit what we have done wrong.