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Even The Biggest And Best Get It Terribly Wrong!

by David Brock on June 9th, 2011

Today, I get this email, it’s addressed to “undisclosed recipients,” which is really email-speak for “Dear Occupant or Current Resident.”  Here’s the text of the email, minus the signature block:

Hey,  ( I really love the personal touch)

Just wanted to take a quick second to see how you are doing and make sure if you had any needs before July 4th that we get them moving now.  I notice that as we approach that holiday, many times things fall off the table, and the best way we can avoid that is getting quotes etc taken care of ahead of time.

We are also running a buy 2 get 1 free sale on select servers right now.  I have a little bit of flexibility with that promotion as well in case you do not need 3 servers…

Call me or email me for more information

Thank you!!

Now before I go further, I need to step back about 2 weeks.  I’m at a client location, just finishing a meeting and my mobile phone rings.  The sales person introduces himself by thanking me for all the business we’ve given his company for a number of years.  He goes further to explain, that he is my newly assigned account sales person.  I thank him, replying, “I appreciate your call, but our requirements are very small and I prefer to buy through the web site.  After all we only order a small number of computers a year, it is much easier for me to go in and configure and order a system on line.”

He replies, “While you can do that, we really want you to be leveraging us to serve your requirements and get you the best deal (code word for cheapest prices).  We’re here to serve you and want you to buy through us rather than the web site.  Do you mind verifying your email information so I can send you an introduction email and package?”

To which I respond, “No, I really don’t have the time to deal with a sales person.  I prefer ordering through the web, I don’t want to give you my email and I really don’t want you sending me information.  Thank you, Good bye!”

I had barely hung up, when my phone pinged, indicating a new email.  It’s an email from this sales person thanking me for the call and providing me the introduction package–ignoring everything I said.  Mildly annoyed, I file it in my folder of “examples of bad practice.”

I’d forgotten about it until I got the email above.

I hate to bash Dell–I really like the company and have loved their products.  But they’ve decided not only to stop listening to me, but that they know better about what I need and how I should buy.

I prefer the web channel with Dell.  It’s efficient, and somehow I always manage to load the systems up with all sorts of cool things, so I never order a base system.  My average purchase is usually more than twice the base configuration–an I never buy a pre-configured system.  Somehow it seems to be the ideal situation, I am the proof that well executed upsell/cross sell really works–even in a web delivered experience.

Even though we don’t buy that many computers every year, and we always tend to buy Dell, but they want to direct me to a more expensive channel.  I have to believe that dealing with a sales person over the telephone is more expensive (and less profitable), than having me order through the web.  Why are they trying to force me to shift from my preferred channel?  It’s common for organizations to try to shift their customers to a more efficient or cheaper channel to reduce their cost of selling.  This transition is always difficult, you tend to lose customers if you don’t do it right.  But I’ve never seen an organization try to shift it’s buyers to a more expensive channel!  Given our purchase needs and past behavior–it doesn’t make sense to shift us from a web based channel to a more expensive people based channel.

I have over a 20 year history of buying primarily Dell products. (I said I liked them).  We have always ordered only Desktops and Laptops/Notebooks.  It seems to me if Dell was using the “intelligence” they might have gleaned from our purchase history, that they would have known that we would probably not be interested in a server promotion–regardless of how good the price deal they might offer.

Why is the sales person making this communication all about price?  Not only by two, get one free, but the implication I can get a deep discount for fewer than 3.  He’s initiated this sales cycle and he has made it all about price–so if I were at all inclined to buy–I would make it even more about price, leveraging the best deal from whatever vendor I could find.  We always train people to focus on value and to minimize discounting, but Dell apparently believes it best to lead with price instead.

Why do they have their sales people ignore my requests to not email me–not only once, but now I am on a distribution list with no ability to “opt-out.”

But wait, things get worse, below the signature block, there is a “How am I doing?  Please email my manager [Name_Withheld] with any feedback.”  Well, I’m slightly pissed off, so I click on what looks like a link–turns out it’s not a link–the font color was changed to make it look “link-like.”  Funny, that was the only “link” that wasn’t real in the entire email, the 4 others worked perfectly.  What kind of sleazy practice is this–my sales person and Dell really doesn’t want my feedback, but wants to mislead me?  They taunt me with the request for feedback, but don’t enable the link.

Whats’ up? This is probably not just a case of bad execution by a sales person.  The sales person is executing a program designed by someone else.  In reality, I don’t think it’s a reflection of Dell, but probably some overzealous manager.  It’s a program that is probably being inflicted on thousands of other small business owners, many probably have the same reaction as me.

It’s not that uncommon.  I see too many (particularly large) organizations doing stupid things like this.   A well intended market manager, a product manager, a sales manager has a mission and will execute it, possibly thinking they are doing the right thing, but so focused on their mission, they don’t understand what they are really doing.  Senior managers are supposed to help avoid this–making sure all programs and initiatives hang together and make sense. But too often, they fail to do the proper review or get involved in the details.

Despite this being more common than one would like, it is real cause for concern.  Strategies and programs executed blindly can have devastating impacts.

I’m really worried about Dell, my experience is that companies tend to adopt these types of misleading and shoddy practices when they are in trouble.

I wonder, should I contact Michael and offer my assistance?  Clearly, some thing’s way off in terms of their sales strategies and the customer experience they are creating.  The fixes are obvious, and actually could both save a lot of  expense and retain/increase revenue.

I still like Dell products.  I’ll try to buy, in spite of the way they are treating me.  I hope they don’t make it too difficult to buy–it might cause me to rethink things.

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3 Comments
  1. Steve Feist permalink

    IMHO, post sale customer experience is even more important that pre-sale experience! After a totally agonizing experience with my H.P. laptop and their tech support in India, I swore to God that I never again would buy another H.P. product.

    While others experience may vary, in general many companies are too concerned about the immediate bottom line and the need to cut costs through offshoring.

    This myopia can lead to bad customer experiences while alienating existing customers for future sales. Companies that have elected to offshore need to have their act together in both pre & post sale support or they simply will not retain customers in the long haul. Customer retention has a direct correlation to the amount of pain inflicted upon the customer.

    S.F.

    • Steve, thanks for the comment. Without a doubt we have to be attentive to the customer experience through the entire life of the relationship. We may have differing opinions of off-shoring. I don’t think it’s offshoring that’s the issue, it’s more one of customer centricity. I’ve seen many very good companies do an extraordinary job at offshoring–creating great customer experiences. I’ve seen many companies do a terrible job and not offshore. I have a feeling that many of the companies that provide poor customer experience in their offshored facilities would also provide bad service domestically.

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