Thursday, September 19, 2013

How To Lose A Customer 101

It's much easier to lose a customer than keep one that already exists. 

Keeping one involves investing in good customer service. It requires the intersection of technology with humans - trained to and able to think and help a customer in need. It means you understand that today - even if your product is really great - there is  always an option for another that does the same thing. It means understanding how easy it is to lose your customer to a competitor.

Yet I continue to be amazed how many companies don't. They create web support that is not user friendly and frustrating telephone systems that keep you caught in a maze of prompts until you get someone on the line that might be really helpful - if you both happened to speak the same language. 

Case in point is what I experienced a few weeks ago with Hewlett-Packard as I tried to configure my existing wireless printer with my brand new modem from the folks at Time Warner Cable.

The result of that adventure is the following user friendly list of what you too can do, if you want to lose a customer to a competitor.
  • Have a website that offers "support" but doesn't answer the question the customer has.
  • Have a customer support phone service that makes the customer first talk to a robot.
  • Make sure that robot never offers a question prompt that fits in with the customer's problem.
  • Make sure that your 7-Day a week Customer Care line does not employ people on the weekend who can help if the customer has an Apple product.
  • Make the customer pay a fee for your help when their product is out of warranty. 
  • Take the money - but don't solve the problem. 
  • Have a customer rep who tells the customer that their three year old printer is a "really old machine" and that must be why it is not recognizing the brand new modem the cable company delivered the week before.
  • Have the rep promise not to reverse the charge for support but never send the confirmation. 
  • Have the rep try to upsell the customer a new printer as a solution.
  • Have the rep promise to send information on the upgrade deal.
  • Don't do that either.
  • When the customer decides to call one more time, hopeful they will get another, more knowledgeable rep on the phone make sure they get the same one.
  • When the customer tells the rep they discovered in their online searches that the problem has to do with a compatibility with Arris modems and would like help on a work-around have the rep (who never heard of this issue before) consult with his "mentor."
  • Have the mentor inform the rep the problem is a "known" incompatibility with that printer model and Arris modems and there is no solution.
  • Have the rep suggest the customer have the cable company come and replace it with one that does.
  • Make sure that the "known" incompatibility is nowhere in your troubleshooter answers on your website support FAQs.
  • Offer no formal apologies and in no way try to make amends for the fact the customer has been charged for support that did not fix the problem or the fact they have now been without a printer for two weeks.
  • Do not seem the least bit phased when the customer tells you the new printer they are going to have to buy will most certainly not be one of yours. Ever. Again.
  • Send a request for feedback on the support the customer received and assure them a "personal response will not be provided." 
  • Somehow manage to place a sponsored "suggested post" in their Facebook feed that afternoon on how "hot" your products are.

And just like that you too can lose a customer to a competitor ! The key is to automate support as much as possible and not properly train and equip the humans you do employ.

My new printer could have been an HP but it's not. It's an Epson which for the record, had no problem recognizing the modem.


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