You’re Damned if You Don’t Appreciate Your Customers.

Posted: June 3, 2013 in Uncategorized

Sometimes large companies suck. They are too big to be flexible. Too big to be responsive. Too big to give a damn about a single customer.


That’s not always the case. I’ve recently had very good experiences with Charles Schwab, with whom I have my investments. Recently, I had to do some complicated transactions with Schwab, the details of which are unimportant. Whenever I spoke to someone from Schwab, they ended the call by telling me that they “appreciate my business”. I’m not a small fish for Schwab. I’m plankton. But all the folks at Schwab were very helpful to me. The reps took ownership of the problem I had and took care of it. They treated me with respect and made my issue a priority. I felt like they really did appreciate my business; it wasn’t just a slogan.


Contrast that with my experience with Capital One and its “no hassle” rewards. Although it says that on my credit card, I wasn’t actually getting any rewards. I called the customer disservice department to inquire why. The rep told me that I hadn’t asked for rewards, but that (reading from a card) “I’m very excited to tell you that you qualify for the following rewards.” It was an insult to my intelligence to think that he was “excited” to tell me about rewards. What marketing nitwit makes him say that? Then he reads off a list of rewards options. Can I get that in writing, I ask. No, he can’t do that. I have to call them and hear about the rewards and how exciting they are. Annoyed, I mocked Capital One’s slogan to the poor sap from customer disservice. I won’t be using that card again.


Even worse is my experience with Verizon. After a weekend of activities with the kids, I sat down at the computer late Sunday afternoon to catch up on some work. I have my office internet through Verizon, and I signed up for the Google Business Apps, including gmail. I can’t log into my gmail at all. Can’t even see old messages, let alone new ones. I call Verizon tech support, which tells me it’s a billing issue, and suggests that I didn’t pay for the Google Apps. I know this isn’t true because I can see my $0.00 balance online, and tell him that. He sympathizes, but explains that the sales department has the power over this, and they are not working on the weekend. I’m shocked that my business e-mail can be completely shut off without notice, and that tech has zero power. He checks with his supervisor to confirm that there is nothing they can do.


I call tech again 20 minutes later and explain the problem anew. The second tech person tells me that it’s not a billing issue, it’s a server maintenance issue. No one can give me access to my e-mail until the server maintenance is back up at 7:00 a.m. on Monday. I’m incredulous. Why didn’t they inform me (or anyone else, including apparently the first tech. person and his supervisor)? She seems a little annoyed as well. She doesn’t know why customer disservice didn’t e-mail their customers. But I know; it’s because they don’t give a damn about their customers. Still annoyed, I take to Twitter and chat with @VerizonSupport. He tells me that I don’t have a Verizon domain (I don’t think he has a clue about how Google Apps work through Verizon), and that I “may have to contact gmail.” He’s guessing. I’d rather he just admit that he doesn’t know than give me a third answer that conflicts with the first two his company made.


Verizon and Capital One can probably get away with it. But private business owners must appreciate their customers. Never take them for granted. If your client or customer is worth working for (if they are not, don’t accept their business anymore), treat each one as your most important client. Don’t pass the buck to or place the blame on someone else in your company. Instruct all your staff who deal with clients on these things. You don’t want your employees to tell customers stuff that obviously isn’t true (like Verizon), or to blame a problem on Joe in accounting. A client’s concern is everyone’s problem. Don’t tell clients that you are too busy or make them feel they don’t matter. If you do that, soon you won’t have any clients, and you won’t matter.


By Adam P. Whitney


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