Say What You’ll Do and Do What You Say
By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD
Repeated stories in these posts relate to cell phone companies. It’s a sad commentary on the industry, yet these lessons apply to all businesses.
For cell phone companies, a disregard for existing customers and preference for new business drives existing customers to their competitors every two years. I have ample stories to share, none of them good.
What’s interesting is that each switching cycle starts online and may shift to the telephone before moving to in-person to finalize the transaction. Once completed, interaction may move back to the telephone for a time before reverting to online for the long term. There is a significant disconnect between these channels.
Through the decades of the every-other-year carrier switch, I can recall none that occurred as expected. None ingratiated me to my new provider, and each one took too much time. Most incurred unexpected charges or hidden fees. Hidden is a generous word. Lied to is more common.
No carrier stands above the others in treating customers right and attempting to hold on to the ones they have rather than continually churn them.
A New Twist
Though our existing carrier was content to continue service under the terms of our original agreement, they took no steps beyond that to keep our business. It was only through the work of an independent sales unit that we learned of a plan that worked for us and would not force us to switch providers.
Key to this was a generous trade-in allowance for our existing phones. Factoring the credit into our calculations would allow us to upgrade our phones at no cost and enjoy a slight decrease in our monthly rate. It seemed too good to be true.
We scrutinized the fine print in their offer and found no flaw. The decision to upgrade service was easy. After confirming the details of their offer, we committed to move forward. Switching took much longer than it should, which happens each time we upgrade. But we walked out of the store with our new phones and began transferring information so we could use them and then return the old units.
A Shocking Development
After wiping the memory on our old phones and shipping them in to receive our trade-in rebates, we encountered a shock. They reviewed our working phones, listed made up problems, and downgraded our promised rebates to less than 10 percent of what we expected. The carrier was unwilling to discuss this. The discrepancy between their promise and their reality was a couple thousand dollars.
An online search for resolutions revealed many people who felt similarly duped. The only successful recourse was to wait three months for the final determination and then reporting them to the Better Business Bureau. Once aggrieved customers filed their complaints, the carrier made good on their promise.
That’s not a wise business strategy.
Customer Service Success Tip
Uncover times your customers may have felt tricked by your marketing promotions and customer retention initiatives. Eliminate these disparities between fact and fiction.
If you don’t address these issues, you’ll alienate customers. And they’ll tell everyone they can, further hurting your chances of gaining new business.
Read more in Peter’s new book, Sticky Customer Service, to uncover helpful customer service tips, encouraging you to do better and celebrating what you do best.
Peter Lyle DeHaan is an entrepreneur and businessman who has managed, owned, and started multiple businesses over his career. Recurring themes included customer service, sales and marketing, and leadership and management. He shares his lifetime of business experience and personal insights through his books and posts.