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The Customer Service Call

by David Brock on July 1st, 2011

Perhaps I’m a little grumpy, anxious to get an early start to the weekend, but I had to get this off my chest.

I just hung up from a “customer service call.”  It was from a Fortune 100 company.  Here’s how it went:

Customer Service Rep (CSR):  “Hi, I’m so and so from such and such company.  I’m calling to follow up on a warranty repair we did.”

Dave (puzzled):  “I’m a little confused, we haven’t had a warranty repair recently, how can I help you?”

CSR:  “We replaced this part on this device, we just wanted to make sure everything is working well and you are satisfied with the repair.”

Dave (more puzzled):  “Well that was more than 2 years ago.”

CSR:  “Yes, I know, were you happy with the service, is everything working to your satisfaction?”

Dave:  “Can you tell me why you are calling now, and what you are trying to achieve?”

CSR:  “We just want to make sure you are satisfied.”

Dave:  “But that was more than 2 years ago, why are you calling now?”

CSR:  “We also noticed your warranty service expired 18 months ago, if that problem happened again, it would be very expensive to repair, can we extend your warranty? Aren’t you concerned”

Dave:  “No, if I had been, I would have renewed my warranty 18 months ago, so why are you calling now?”

CSR:  “Ugh…………..  I’m not sure……..  Do you want to renew your warranty?”

Dave:  “I already told you I don’t care.  I also no longer own the product, I donated it to a community group over a year ago.”

CSR:  “Ugh……….  Do they want a warranty?”

Dave:  “Why don’t you call them, good bye.”

I really can’t hold the CSR too much at fault.  He was just following a script for a program that some marketing, product management, or other person had developed.  It was poorly conceived, terribly designed and badly executed.  And my guess is this call was inflicted on 10’s of thousands of customers.

There were so many lost opportunities in this call.

First, the message I got—between the lines—was this company really doesn’t care at all about it’s customers.  If it did care about the customers and their satisfaction, a follow up call a few days or a week after the repair would have been appropriate.  (No, I don’t remember getting a call then—but it was over 2 years ago).

As a customer, I felt there was a lot of arrogance what they were trying to achieve.  They really weren’t  interested in my satisfaction, but they used that to disguise their true intent–to sell me something, either the latest greatest model or a warranty contract.

It’s even worse, I when I disposed of the old product, I had bought the latest greatest new replacement from this very company, indicating it was a replacement for the product I purchased.  Why didn’t they know that, why hadn’t they “connected the dots,” perhaps refining their call strategy, maybe talking to me about the product I had purchased and whether I wanted to buy warranty service for that (about to expire in a couple of months).

They missed all sorts of opportunities to have a higher impact on me, to nurture and build a relationship, to build my loyalty as a customer.  They didn’t recognize the long relationship I had been developing with them through repeat purchases over many years.  To them, I wasn’t a long term, repeat customer, I was a person who had a customer service call more than 2 years ago.  The relationship I thought I had been building was nothing more than transactions.

We have all sorts of wonderful technologies to build and nurture relationships, to understand customer history, to analyze this history, to look at all the interactions a customer may have had.  These tools can help us shape our conversations, to be more meaningful, to be relevant, to have a higher impact, to build the relationship, and to demonstrate to each customer that they are valued.  There are elegant CRM systems, marketing tools, analytic tools, lots of things that we use to more effectively engage our customers with appropriate, relevant, timely communications.

I might be a little more forgiving of this company if I didn’t know that they had all these tools—they are the “poster child” of many of the leading Sales 2.0/Enterprise X.0 companies.  Their executives attend the same conferences I attend and speak of how they are using the tools to build more timely and relevant communications, to nurture relationships with their customers.

Funny, I didn’t experience any of this timely and relevant communication.  I don’t know what went wrong.  My relationship had been reduced to a transaction, a single poorly executed call with false premises, focused solely on getting an order.

I’m grumpy and disappointed—we, as sales and marketing professionals, can be so much better than this.  We have so much more capability to better engage our prospects and customers.  We have so much capability to build and nurture relationships.  We have so much capability to demonstrate and create value.

There are great tools to facilitate this–but the tools aren’t the most critical thing.  We need to think about how we (or whether we) value customers.  We need to think about the customer experiences we are designing.  We need to provide the leadership, develop and execute these strategies.   We need to put in place the right processes, hire the right people, train and coach them.  We need to have the right tools, we need to leverage the data we have.

As sales and marketing professionals we have to be thoughtful, about what we do.  It’s just a easy to develop a strong program to build the relationship with customers as it is to build a program that’s nothing more than a sham.  I’d also bet, the first produces better short and long term results than the latter.

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4 Comments
  1. Brilliant, Dave…

    Written so clearly and succinctly. I agree with you one million percent.

    We attempt to automate empathy and instead just leave more customers “touched” in all the wrong ways. In many ways, we wish we would have been ignored in the first place….

    Dan

  2. CSR or Telemarketers should not be too scripted. I always try to point out that you need to understand what you are selling. Often times, prospects will have questions, if you do not know what you are selling or offering, the call will likely go bad.

    Thanks for sharing this David.

    • Amber, thanks for the great comment. I think the overscripting keeps the sales person from really listening, engaging, and responding appropriately. As you mention, understanding what you sell and why it is valuable to the customer is critical

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