Ruining the Customer Experience

I recently had my annual (and what should be totally unnecessary) confrontation with my local technology provider. Everything was going along fine and then suddenly my bill almost doubled. My call to discover why was answered somewhere thousands of miles away, and I was told that the special promotions applied to my account had expired. I’ll bet many of you have been through something similar.

My first question was why I was not notified a month or so in advance. I was told there was a line in my previous bill which did just that. Funny, that I never saw it. (Later, they actually sent a copy of the bill to prove their case. Unfortunately they sent me the bill which I assume is the mailed version. I receive my bill notifications electronically, which is much different than the mailed bill. I sent them the email of what I had received -with no notification – and got no response.)

But here was the real interesting part of this sad story. After going round and round with the lack of notification, I was ultimately put through to some “special account manager” of some sort, who after some needless haggling, informed me that similar new promotions could be provided. Of course, there would be a slight increase in my bill, and I was still liable for the big increase for the current month.

So riddle me this… how did the decision makers at this company decide that this was the best strategy for delivering a totally outstanding customer experience?

Let’s see, first we shock ‘em with the surprise increase, then we give ‘em the run-around when they call.  If they are either nice enough – or persistent enough, we will then allow them to talk with our secret reps, who will then do them this gigantic favor by offering them some neat promotions we have tucked away. And the good news – they may never call so we can charge them double for what they could be paying. Yes, that is our strategy for keeping gloriously satisfied customers for life.

OK, so I am being a bit dramatic, but the impact of the experience is still accurate.

In implementing tax policies, we expect the IRS to communicate something like, “There are a lot of tax breaks (promotions if you will) hidden away, but it is up to you or your CPA to find them. Good luck.” That works if you are a taxing authority with absolute power and no competition. Yet, is it possible that my tech company believes the IRS model is the gold standard of the ultimate customer experience for highly competitive companies such as theirs? I guess will know for sure if the big billing surprise happens again in the same way.

It is not rocket science. If you want to keep truly satisfied customers forever, provide them the value they expect, and let them know you genuinely care. How different it could have been…

Dear Steve. We wanted to advise you that the cost saving promotions on your account will soon expire. Therefore, we have created some new promotions which we will be applying to your account at that time. There will be a slight monthly increase of $18, but we assure you that you are getting the very best rates that we offer. In fact, we will always automatically apply any new promotion rates to you, whether you are aware of them or not. We believe you deserve that. We welcome your call to further explain these changes and to fully address any other questions you may have. We truly value your thirty years of business and look forward to serving you for the next thirty years.

Here is the point to remember. I ended up at exactly the same rate. However, had they handled it differently, I would likely be telling the world about my wonderful experience, and feeling validated in my decision to use them. Instead my trust in them has slipped substantially, and I am actively pursuing other providers. Doubt if I am the only one, based on others with whom I have spoken

Maybe a good time to have some in-depth conversations about the impact you are having with your customers, to ensure you are not mindlessly driving them away.

All the best.

Share Your Thoughts