Monday, February 23, 2009

Don't be that person!

I want to make a statement, and maybe give you a little insight on how to be a good customer. Not just a good customer to me, but also a good customer to anyone, anytime, any place. To do this, I will tell you about a customer of mine. We can call them a case study.

A few posts back I told you about a customer who wanted something for free. I gave them a smart ass remark back. They left happy etc.


Well they came back today. It is a very rare thing to handle a customer with frankness where they come back to you later with a complaint. Usually, as a sales rep, giving a customer some of their own medicine three paths emerge. The first and most obvious, they come back and they go to a different store, or just speak with a different person at your location. Maybe if they are rude to more than one person, they might eventually find the one person who gives them what ever they want. The second path is common as well. The customer was put into their place and they liked what you sold them, and they never come back. The third is the most rare, but can be experienced on a regular basis still, but they come back and talk to you and are more rude than they were the first time.

Today, I want to spend some time with path number 3. This is the most extreme and offers up clear things on what not to do. I also want to shed some light on what happens behind the scenes of any retail location, restaurant, and even car dealers.

So, my bitchy customers came back today. They came back and saw me. They came back and decided to yell about their phones. If you would like a refresher, here you go.

These customers were a family of 4. There was the bitchy/controlling wife, submissive husband, and parents 1 and 2 [collectively they are called clueless because when we refer back to bitchy/controlling wife, her controlling doesn't stop with her husband, it has also bled into controlling her parents too]. She walked up and asked what she could get for free. Again, this is a customer who has been a customer for nearly 2 years. They wanted free phones, I got them 1 good phone and 3 free ones, but because they were returning customers my company gives them an extra subsidy off and made that good phone free as well. So they got 4 phones and didn't pay us a cent. This is the benefit of being a customer of my company. We actually give back to you after 2 years. We are the only company that gives you a promotional rate PLUS an extra subsidy off the phone. There is not a single wireless carrier that does this with every customer no matter the price plan.

So as stated before they came back, and they are complaining. Surprise Surprise. I am not scared to see these customers again. When you leave with a phone that I have sold you, I seriously have the belief that you left with the right phone for what you are looking for. I have the firm belief that you will not come back to see me unless you need to pay your bill or if you just want to stop by and say hello. Maybe I am naive, but I spend a majority of my time listening to what you are telling me to make sure I give you what you need or want. I don't want you to return to my store and exchange your phone. If you need to exchange your phone its like spitting out a great dish a great chef prepared to you. Gordon Ramsey does this a lot with chefs. If he doesn't like it, he doesn't swallow. This is much the same with cell phones. I spent my time making sure you left with what you needed, and you have the audacity to come back and return the hard work I have done. That is fine. I can make mistakes too. I get that.

Bitchy/Controlling wife came back with clueless 1 and 2 and said that the phones that I sold them are 'pieces of shit'. They said that the battery is terrible.

When a customer comes in with a complaint, I get into what I would call doctor mode. Well maybe it's TV doctor mode, but nevertheless I get into the scientist mode. This particular phone was presenting with a bad battery. Most of the time, a bad battery is just a quick fix. Rarely is it ever a bad battery. Most of the time it's just a little misunderstanding. That misunderstanding comes when people compare what they HAD with what they now HAVE. 2 years ago people would get a phone and charge it everyday. It was a part of their routine. Well what would happen is that after a year, the batteries would be shot because of all the charging. The lithium ion batteries of 2 years ago had only about 200-300 charging cycles. So that means if you charge your battery [regardless of battery level] you would use up 1 charging cycle. After all the cycles are used up, you battery would stop holding a charge. If you knew what you were doing, your battery would hold a charge for up to 3 days or more on a regular basis. Customers are coming in these days and expecting the lithium ion batteries of 2 years ago. That is not the case. Because so many people complained of diminished battery life so soon, cell phone makers created a lithium battery that had 400-500 cycles in the battery. The residual effect was diminished life between charges. Now you have a battery that will last you 1 day to 1 1/2 days. With a majority of the population is charging their phones everyday regardless of the level on the battery, no one should really care. Your phone is making it through a day, and you will not have the need to replace your battery after 12 months.

Customers don't like to be educated. This isn't just bitchy/controlling wife and clueless 1 and 2, it's nearly every customer. Because of some bad sales people out there, the good ones lose credibility when they educate a customer on a product. They instantly think that we are giving them a company line, or telling them what they want to hear in order to get them to shut up. They honestly don't think we want them to be happy. We want to create pissed off customers apparently. This is a very hard image to overcome. Bitchy/controlling wife wasn't having anything I was saying. I fixed their problem, and told them the resolution to the issue that was leading them to think that their phones were 'pieces of shit'. This is when it gets really fun. There isn't a single person I know that likes to be wrong, especially if they are bitchy or controlling, let alone both in 1 person.

This is when their phones start to get the phantom problems. You know those problems you forget to tell your doctor. It's like when he tells you that you are fine after you tell him your symptoms, but then you tell him about all the other things that are wrong with you to try and convince him of your impending demise. You realized the first thing you said was nothing, but then you get the blood in the urine. Bitchy/controlling wife and clueless 1 and 2 got the cell phone equivalent to blood in the urine-Static. Again, this problem can be dismissed rather quickly, but I need to ask some additional questions. This is like a lawyer asking the rebuttal question. How often, when does this happen, and where does this happen? All the time, all the time, and everywhere and to anyone I talk to; are the answers I get in return. I asked them when the last time they experienced this problem. They said with resounding resolve, just before I walked up to your kiosk. Like I said, this is an easy fix and problem easily dismissed. I asked them again, are you sure? Yes Yes Yes YES!

I took one of their phones and dialed my cell. My phone rang. I handed them my phone and walked away and I instructed them to talk. I listen on their phone for static. No static. They didn't hear any static from my phone either. So without hanging up the phone I asked them to do the same thing, but this time they had their own phone. Still no static. Of course it was a case of, well, it works here but I swear it was just doing it. See, when I get a customer that makes a claim as outrageous as static, it should be easily duplicated. It has been duplicated before with other customers, but 9 times out of 10, it won't be, and the static you claim to have experienced is nothing more than a fabrication. Is it possible that you experienced static? Yes, but occasionally. But to be this adamant about static, I know you are making it up; and if you aren't, your phone would have static all the damn time and that would be easily duplicated.

Bitchy/controlling wife was proven wrong not once, but now twice. She was still adamant that her phones were "pieces of shit". Then the real problem comes out. She was sticking with her story that the phone was crap, and I was sticking to the story that the phone was functioning properly. In the customer service industry there is a sickening trend that the customer is always right. I don't agree with this train of thought because it empowers the customer to discount what I [the trained professional] have to say. I have already stated to this customer:
I will trouble shoot their issues and come up with a reasonable solution for them, which may or may not include getting them different phones. In the event that you are not pleased with my service, here is my business card before I answer any of your questions, just so that if you need to storm off in a fit of anger because I have not sufficiently helped you through your problem, you will not only have the correct spelling of my name so when you e-mail my boss to complain, you can spell my name right, you will also have the location in which I work. I also expect that if I do, in fact, fix your problem, you would also use that same card to e-mail my boss my praises, and again, get the spelling of my name correct.

That all might seem like a silly/arrogant thing to say, but I prefer to be completely upfront and confident that you are going to leave happy and set the expectation that I will make you happy. How many sales reps have you encountered that give you their card and say, e-mail my boss if I suck, before they even let you ask them a question or even before they start to help you?

None. I know.

The real problem with my customer is not that the phones are shitty. The phones are functioning exactly how they are supposed to act. They just had a small issue really turn into a bigger issue and they got frustrated and their patience ran out. That is ok. You are allowed to get frustrated, but let me help you. My goal is to make this customer happy. They are a group of three people standing around a tiny kiosk causing a scene and telling me, rather loudly, that the product I sell is crappy. I'm sorry, that is just rude. My main goal is to make them happy and get them out of here. Note: I am not about to give them anything to shut them up like the restaurant industry does.

If you don't like your phone, that is fine. Just tell me you don't like your phone. Don't make stuff up about your phone to prove to me that you don't like it. Be honest with me. I am honest with you. So bitchy/controlling wife said that she wanted to return her phone for something else because this one had such 'low quality'. She has owned 2 cell phones her entire life, her basis of comparison is huge! She must be that myterious inspector #34.

No problem. We can do that. I just want to make you aware that if you decide to switch to a different phone, then there will be a restocking fee to do so [not because we hate you and only want your money, it's because there are people out there who return their phones for different colors and because we cannot resell that phone, we need to recoupe that money somehow. I mean you just took a $200.00 phone and used it, then you are returning it and want a different $200.00 phone. You just wasted $400.00 of inventory to fix an issue that is non-existent and oh yeah, you haven't paid me a cent]. I don't have to tell you what this customer did, I think you get it. She was not happy. Then this is when she thinks she has the ultimate leverage over me.

Thus far into the conversation I am holding my ground. I am telling her that what she is experiencing is real. Yes, you may have gotten some static on your phones. Yes it is true, you phone is only holding a charge for about 2 days, but the decision to move into a different phone is not going to solve your issue because all phones, one time or another will experience static. It's wireless, it happens, and the battery life is less, but so are other phones. You will get a similar experience from another phone. So she tries to pull the carpet out from underneath my feet. She knows she only has to pay that fee if she gets a different phone, but she can return her phones all together and revert back to her old calling plan and agreement and not have to pay that fee.

"I want to return this right now and go to another carrier." she says.

In the cell phone biz, this is the equivelent to getting into a fight with your spouse and yelling across the house, "I hate you."

You don't really mean what you say, but you think that because you said it, it is going to get the other person's attention.

I'm sorry, but I am not scared. I know what is going to happen if you leave my company. You are going to go to a competitor that doesn't have the reliability in service that my company has provided you for the last 2 years. You are going to go to a competitor that doesn't have the customer loyalty programs that we have that afforded you the ability to get 4 phones at no cost after being with us for 2 years. You are going to go to a competitor that doesn't offer the best sales training in the United States like my company does to their staff. Your threat of leaving doesn't make me flinch, or scared, or make me want to do anything more for you than I already have done.

Here is the kicker. I tell her all of these things. I don't hold back. I tell her that she isn't going to scare me or intimidate me. Once she realized that I wasn't budging she calmed down enough to let me handle every one of her problems. Up until now, I haven't touched her phones other than the cell phone call test. I mean I haven't even looked at the battery, I haven't done any basic physical trouble shooting. So in calm voice I ask her if I may please see her phones so that I can get a better understanding of the problems she is experiencing because she may, in fact, be having a problem. She calmly collects her phones and hands them over and I go through my doctor-patient routine. Take them apart and look for the obvious signs of damage. Was it dropped in water, sat on too hard, you know easy things to show that the reason the phone doesn't work is because you broke it? Next, I power up the phones and go through the software. All the buttons work. They all make a static free phone call. I did notice that the software version of the phone is a little out of date, so I check the software release notes in our technical service programs. Turns out many people were expereiencing diminished battery lives with this phone. They created a software patch to fix that. [What happened is that the software of the phone thought the battery was more dead than it really was. The software patch fixes that glitch]. I fix their software and they are all patched up. It was an easy fix, but because I had to deal with all their bullshit lies, it took me close to an hour to fix their problem.

In the end, this customer kept their phones. My initial sale was correct. The phones they bought are the phones they needed. The fix was simple. All that fuss and they ended up leaving with exactly what they came in with.

Did this customer have the right to come back and complain? Sure they did. They were experiencing a very real problem. But the manner in which they complain is enough to prove to anyone how stupid and rude they are. If you have a problem, do not walk into the store and get snotty with the people who are in a position to help you. Don't have that combative mentality. How many times have you walked into the store and wanted to 'yell at those stupid sales reps'? If I am going to complain, I had better be nice about it. My steak was cooked medium, but I ordered it medium rare. Am I going to catch the waiter and say, my steak is cooked like shit? What the hell is wrong with your cook back there? Doesn't he know how to cook?

Instead try, hey I ordered my steak medium rare, and it looks like it's a bit overdone. It's all good, but I just wanted to give you a heads up. I didn't ask for a new steak, I didn't tell him I wanted it for free. I am still happy. If the server decides to take care of me and comp it, then that is great, but you know he is going to re-cook it for you. As long as it is right, I am good. I don't need it for free.

The same thing goes with cell phones. As complicated as they are, they are amazingly easy to fix. I can fix it, but there is no need for the mellodramatic theatrics. The yelling at me. The my phone is shitty. The fake problems. Just come up and be honest, but also be tolerable. If this customer just came up and said, hey, can you look at my phones, I think there is something wrong, my battery seems to die really fast and I get the occasionaly static. Had they just come up like that, I could have had them in and out in less than 15 minutes. Instead they had to yell, get loud, and hinder my process of fixing the issue.

This brings me to my last point of this already drawn out case study. Ever wonder where submissive husband was? Oh yeah, his phone is awesome. Had he not been a returning customer he would have ended up paying for his phone. Have you ever heard of the line, you get what you pay for? This hold true in cell phones. If you pay for a phone, it is more likely to be better. If you just get the phone we give away free with 2 year contracts, you are going to get a phone that is good, but isn't as good as a phone you would pony up the dough for. Free phones are nice, but the ones you pay for are nicer. It's like getting a choice between a KIA and a LEXUS. Which one is cheaper? The Kia. Which one is better? The Lexus. Sure the Lexus is more expensive, but the materials that go into that car are better. The Kia will get you from point A to B, but the Lexus will get you there without hurting your back from all the pot holes.

Ever wonder why people who use BlackBerrys never return them? Because they are the Lexus of cell phones. That standard free flip phone is more like the KIA. Nice, but not that nice.

*I do want to offer a disclaimer. For those of you sales reps out there that want to go back and try this kind of 'straight talk express' with their customers; don't. You'll look like an idiot and come off looking like either an arrogant asshole, or a condesending prick. I have refined this skill over the years. I can say the things I do because I practice them over and over again. Silly it seems, but then again, I am good at what I do. The best public speakers are the ones who practice in front of a mirror all the time. I practice on my family, I practice on my friends, and I practice by myself. Its like a cook testing a new recipe. They must experiment before it becomes a menu item. I have refined my approach and the way I speak to make what I say seem intelligent and honest, and not bitchy or arrogant. It's taken me a long time to master the craft of telling you to fuck off and you to tell me thank you for doing so. It's not WHAT you say, it's just HOW you say it.

1 comment:

~K said...

Dude you have the patience of Job there is no way wo how I would have made it through that without turning one of the phones into a prison shiv!

and submissive husband was probably still at home trying to find out where bitchy wife hid his testicles!
:-)