Here’s a Textbook Example of How to Chase Away Customers

Last week I was reminded of how expertly and efficiently a company could drive away a new customer. It was a classic example of a company doing almost everything wrong – and losing a customer in the process.

The company offers teleconference (and other related) services. I found them through a web search and they seemed to meet our needs. So I looked for the link on the web page that said “buy now” or “sign up now” or something like that. But I couldn’t find it. All I found was a phone number.

At that point my little voice piped up and said “be careful”. As usual, I ignored it. I knew this was going to be fine. I knew there would be no problems.

I was wrong.

Okay, I admit I had a tiny bit of concern that this company did not offer web-based sign up. But I didn’t let it stop me. I called the phone number and immediately was connected to a lady who helped me. She answered my questions, took all my information and was pleasant enough. And she informed me my account would not be setup until later due to their “system being down” at the time. But she assured me I would receive my “welcome email” the next morning with all the information I needed to setup our first teleconference.

The next morning came and went. Actually the whole day came and went. No email arrived. So the following day I called them back. The guy who answered said my account was not in the system. “Why not” I asked (not really expecting an answer). He didn’t know. But he said he would find who I talked to and have her enter my account right away, this morning. And he’d have her call me to confirm everything was okay.

By the time that morning was over I still had received no email and no phone call. I called them again. Same guy answered. This time I persuaded him to enter my account. I also asked him to have someone call me to confirm the first person I talked to did not enter my information twice or leave my information (including a credit card number) lying around for people to see.

Again, no response. No phone call. No email.

By now, the purported definition of insanity was dancing through my head. You know, “keep doing the same thing but expect different results”. Obviously the fault was mine for expecting the “sales team” to enter my account promptly and accurately and offer a minimum amount of follow up. Silly me!

Therefore, I tried a different approach. I found the email addresses of several of the company’s top executives, starting with the CEO. I sent them all an email explaining the situation and my frustration. I asked them for help. Then the optimist in me sat back and happily waited for a sincere and apologetic response followed by swift action that resolved my situation and showed me how much they care about their customers.

“Yeah. Right. In your dreams” said my little voice.

Roughly 24 hours later I had heard nothing from the CEO or any of the other executives to whom I sent my plea for help except one. The only person who answered was a VP in charge of a DIFFERENT DIVISION. He had nothing to do with the teleconferencing services yet he alone responded to my request. Unfortunately, he was unable to get anyone in the teleconferencing area to respond. I heard from nobody.

Finally, I received the welcome email so I was able to setup our teleconference call. That’s when I discovered how antiquated their system was. It lacked most of the features I consider basic in teleconferencing services. I wasn’t even able to see how many minutes we used or what we were going to be charged. There wasn’t even a web interface to manage the call.

After the teleconference, I knew this business relationship would not last. Their low price was nice. But it didn’t come close to compensating for their lousy service, lack of responsiveness and an inadequate feature set. So I canceled the account after being a customer for less than 48 hours.

That was a week ago. I still have no idea how much they charged me. Nobody there will tell me.

Clearly this company did a lot of things wrong. We could build a seminar around this example. But of all the goofs they made, one stands out more than any others:

Their leaders didn’t care.

Although I give credit to the one executive who did respond to my email, as a whole, their executive team dropped the ball. They were made aware of the situation and they did nothing. How a company behaves is a result of its leadership. If leaders place a high priority of serving customers well then so will employees. If the leaders do not, then it’s most likely employees will not either.

This company has a leadership team that does not appear to value customer service. They don’t seem to care about every customer getting quality service and having a quality experience. And their attitude (their values) are echoed throughout the organization. The result is customer have bad experiences and they leave. Maybe not all customers. But if it happened to me I have no doubt it’s happening to others. Eventually this will impact their revenue, earning and growth. Maybe then the CEO will pay attention.

What do you think? What did this company do wrong? How would you fix it?

The article was written by Kevin Stirtz