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Today’s guest feature is from Simon T Bailey, Leadership Imagineer and author of Shift Your Brilliance ( on Amazon!). Simon was also a Keynote speaker at IGNITE, the 2014 American Marketing Association’s Annual Leadership Summit hosted in Chicago, which our Founder Nirmal Parikh attended representing the Boston Chapter.
Ladies and gentlemen, I’ve been “married” to my smartphone provider ever since I first purchased my cellphone. I loved them and upgraded whenever they had something new on the market. In fact, my cellphone plan is so old that they’ve grandfathered all of my cool benefits from the old plan into the new one. Totally awesome, right? Well, almost. That is, until I lost my phone. Marketing can sell the dream, but customer service delivers a nightmare, according to The Conference Board, which recently surveyed 1,000 CEOs, presidents, and chairmen. The #1 opportunity that keeps these leaders up at night is human capital development; #2 is customer relationships. Are you surprised? I am not. While traveling in Washington, D.C., somewhere between the hotel and the airport my phone went MIA (missing in action). I cringed and thought to myself, what in the H-E-double-hockey-sticks happened to my phone? While at the Reagan National Airport, I feverishly started looking for a pay phone and found one near the Delta Air Lines TSA line. First, I called my smartphone provider, and they told me that I could suspend my service temporarily. Second, my phone was turned off, which meant that I would no longer be able to use the Find My iPhone app. I told my provider that my phone was insured, and they proceeded to transfer me to a third-party company that handles insurance claims. Here is where the wheels fell off the wagon, and I experienced three customer service killers that you won’t want to repeat in your business.
Marketing is forever being judged by metrics, and I totally get that. But would you believe that as they were transferring me over to the third-party company, which shall remain nameless for now, they put a supervisor on the phone to see if I had a good experience? And then to add injury to insult, they asked, if I were to take a survey, would I recommend their service? Well, let’s see. You’ve jammed me up in a corner, testing my love for your brand, so I guess the answer is yes for now. They should’ve asked what they could do to resolve the issue without asking me to take some bonehead survey so that they could meet their KPI (key performance indicators) and service goals. First, solve the problem and then ask for feedback.
After telling my story again, the representative said that my phone would be shipped out in one to two business days. I said, perfect. I was heading to San Francisco and would be reunited with my second wife—my smartphone—once I arrived. Well, two days later and no smartphone, no phone call, and no email explaining what happened. I felt like the guy who asks a girl to dance, and she says to wait right where you are and never comes back. Now, I am flying out to Dallas and I am disappointed. I call the company from Dallas to ask what happened. The representative starts going through a dissertation about how the warehouse ran out of phones and my order was not processed. I then suggest that I could go to the local retail store in Dallas to pick up a replacement. All he had to do was put it in the system and handle it on his end. His reply was no, stating that “We don’t operate that way.” He should’ve given me several options instead of being a roadblock to my productivity. He also should have offered to provide a temporary phone for me while my new one was in transit. But, no, I felt he just wanted to get me off the phone as fast as possible.
I arrived at my next city, Detroit, MI, and still no phone. By this time, a week has gone by, and I am phone-less in Detroit. I am on an unplanned digital vacation and not feeling the love. I called my smartphone company, and a young lady named Penny answered the phone. She empathized with my pain and said that she would have to transfer me back over to their third-party company. She couldn’t do anything for me, but I would be receiving a survey that was based on how she had handled my call. I realized in that very moment that she was only doing her job and totally didn’t get it. Meanwhile, her company is spending hundreds of millions of dollars in celebrity endorsements touting their superior service, but in reality, they can’t take care of a 15-year loyal customer. I am committed to them, but I question if they really are committed to me. Why? They never emailed me or called my alternate cellphone with an update. I was left in the dark. In the future, if you are unable to fulfill your promise to your customers, let them know and reset their expectations. This will go a long way to maintaining a happy customer marriage. Whatever you did to market your way into my heart, then you have to do the same to keep me loyal to you. Now, I might start exploring other smartphone companies because this has left a bad taste in my mouth. There are 25,000 people that follow me in my various social media channels. I wonder what they will think of this experience. Let me know your thoughts by tweeting #bettercustomerservice. You are Brilliant, and I am sure that you have a better approach to ensure that your good marketing is aligned with great service.
Simon T. Bailey is a Leadership Imagineer and author whose expertise equips emerging leaders and organizations with tips, tools and techniques on how to unleash their potential. He is the former sales director of the world-renowned Disney Institute and founder of Brilliance Institute, Inc. Experience the 7 Days to Brilliance Challenge at www.shiftyourbrilliance.com