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Tag Archive for customer service issues

Sales Prevention


Surely you’ve heard this term before…if not, sales prevention can be defined as ways businesses keep people from making purchases or otherwise doing business with your company.


Examples of this can be:


* Not returning phone calls or emails in a timely manner, if at all

* Not maintaining adequate stock, especially of sale items, so that when a customer comes in looking for a particular item, it’s not available

* Not empowering your employees to resolve customer complaints in a timely manner so as to not lose business


There is another example of sales prevention that I recently experienced, though it was geared more toward sales prevention from an actual employee. Online sales can be easier and potentially more profitable because you are cutting out the middleman, or sales associate in this case. While that may seem well and good, this can be a dangerous pathway to take.


Consider this recent situation…


My two daughters have cell phone plans that were expiring through a different cell provider than the one I use. My goal was to get us all on the same plan, as my contract is not expiring for a year, and up until now I’ve been happy with their service.


Changing plans meant the girls getting new phones, which of course made my two teenage daughters very happy. Needing to do this as inexpensively as possible, I directed them to the company’s website and told them to look at phones that would be free with a new line added. Coming up short (but of course…), I told them that sometimes the phone options are different in the store, and maybe we could go out one night and check them out.


Before doing this, I perused the website to see what my potential cost would be. I noticed that along with the free phones, there was an option to waive the initiation fee for each new line – saving me $72 – which was great.


A couple of days passed before we were out and about, and passed the cell phone store. We stopped in and browsed the phone options. I met a great sales associate in the store who was very personable and knowledgeable. He understood what was important to teenagers as far as phones are concerned and was able to help them make a (free) decision. Okay, I’ll admit it – I did give in to one phone that wasn’t free, but wasn’t crazy expensive either.


Still thinking about it, I explained that we would likely be making the change in the next day or two and asked if the line activation would be waived as it is with online purchases. His reply? “Oh, no, they never let us do that in the store. That’s only online.”


Okay, but I’m here, ready to add two new lines to the tune of $40/month, plus one not-so-free phone and another two year committment, and it’s only online? We’re not talking $10 here – that’s over $100 plus another $40 month for a budget friendly family of five…..


So that meant leaving the store, essentially wasting an employee’s time and potential commission if they make a commission, going home, and making the purchase online. I ended up finding two phones online that turned out to be free with a new line, and saved $72.00 plus the cost of the one phone I was going to give into.


My next hurdle was placing the online order. One of the phones was able to be picked up in the store the next day, while the other wasn’t. I set it up for the one phone to be picked up at the store, and as I reviewed my cart before hitting the “place order” button, I noticed nothing for the one phone was listed.


I call the store where I set it up to be delivered and explained my situation, asking if the order was still valid since I didn’t see it in my cart. Without missing a beat, the employee says, “You can’t buy something that’s not in your cart, right?” I’m just not making friends with this company…..


Feeling defeated, I turn my situation into a hypothetical question: say I were to purchase two phones online to add to my account; one could be picked up in store and one couldn’t. Would both show up in my cart?


She then explained that no, the one phone wouldn’t show up in my cart. I would be emailed confirmation to pick it up in the store. Okay, good. So then I go on, confirming that all of the stipulations that were included in the online purchase, including the phone being free and the line activation waived, would be honored. Nope and nope. The phone is not free in the store, so I would have to pay for it. And, “they stopped waiving activation fees a long time ago.”


I nicely explained that there is an online special where the activation fee is waived, and she said, “No there’s not.” Um, there is, because I’m on your website right now and am reading it. She again says they don’t do that. I suggest she look at their website, which she does, and then after a moment of silence she says, “Huh. I guess we do waive it online.”


Bringing it full circle, I confirm that since the phone that is free online is NOT free in the store, I am safe to assume that the activation cannot be waived in the store. She confirms, and I thank her for her time, and continue to do it all online.


I know, I know…beggars can’t be choosers, and I should just be happy to settle for purchasing online. What bothered me though, from a customer service standpoint, is:


* The company essentially steered me away from doing business with a live person by not allowing them to make an offer that is available online. That sent me a message about how they view customer/employee relationships, whether they meant to or not.


* They offered an option (to be delivered to the store vs mailed) without the disclaimer that by doing so negates any offers I believed I was getting by making the online purchase. Calling didn’t help much either – I was not so nicely told that by choosing an option they gave me would cost way more than just waiting a few days for it to come in the mail. I completely get the reasoning behind it, but then offer the option with a statement that it will cost more so the buyer knows what they are getting into.


* Employees need to be aware of all products and specials, both in store and online. Give the employees the power to work with customers and encourage purchases from real people. People still need connections with other people, and this can go a long way with customer loyalty and retention.


In the end, they got me – I’m here for another two years. However, based on my experience, I will no longer recommend them to others when people are looking for cell phone provider recommendations.




The 9 Circles of Customer Service Hell


We’ve all been there and can relate – we have a customer service experience that makes us want to bang our head on a wall and never, ever do business with a company again.


What are the 9 circles of customer service hell? As you read this list, created by Jay Steinfeld in an Inc. publication, see how many you find yourself nodding to vigorously…


  1. The never-ending voice mail phone tree
  2. The requirement to repeat your name, account number, etc., ad infinitum
  3. Hold, hold, hold
  4. The ominous sound, mid-conversation, of the dial tone
  5. The disappearing clerk
  6. The line that’s always 20 people deep
  7. The agent who doesn’t understand your question
  8. The “I’m sorry, but I don’t have the authority to do that” response
  9. The clerk who’s busy texting someone who’s clearly more important than you


All of these items are particularly troublesome, but there are some items on this list that are more eye gauging than others as they relate to customer service:


1. Voice mail tree: what was supposed to be an efficiency in business has become problematic in many respects. Most disturbing are the voice activated voice mail trees. I’m not sure if I speak too softly, or having speech issues I’m unaware of, but I find these to be the most frustrating – I end up having to yell at the voice mail system to make them understand, sometimes to be told by the automated attendant that I’m interrupting and should be patient before giving an answer.


Solution: employ mystery shoppers to place typical calls to your business to navigate your voice mail system to find out what’s working and what isn’t. By mirroring typical customer needs via telephone, you can pinpoint areas that need improvement. Similarly, you can use a hot transfer feedback option that, if a caller successfully navigates the voice mail tree, can leave their feedback at the end of the call.


2.  The requirement to repeat your name, account number, and other identifying information multiple times: I’ve seen this from time to time in the service industry, but have noticed it most often in the medical industry. I recently took my daughter to a new doctor. After spending 15 minutes filling out all of the required forms, we were ushered into the examination room, only to find the nurse seated at a computer waiting to ask the same questions I just filled out so she could enter them into the computer. Surely there’s a better way to do this!


Solution: survey your front line staff, the ones who are responsible for the day to day aspects of your business. They may feel as frustrated as customers do with some of the data collection gathering and might have solutions to streamline the process. Coupling employee and customer feedback may give insight into ways to make the process smoother all around, which gives employees the opportunity to serve more customers and keep satisfaction at a strong level.


3. Employees who don’t have the authority to make decisions: how often do you hear this? “I’d love to help you, but I don’t have the authority to do that.” While they may be able to find a supervisor who can help, it’s just one more touchpoint a customer has to deal with, and wait for, which can harm customer perception.


Solution: empower your employees to make certain decisions on their own to help customers quickly and within one conversation. Find the most common customer issues, the best ways to handle these issues, and train your staff on troubleshooting. Help them ask the right questions and collect enough information to make an informed decision on how to best satisfy the customer. Go one extra step and give them the ability to make that decision and help the customer without needing to go through a supervisor.


While this won’t work with every case, and some situations will require help from a supervisor, giving employees the power to make decisions for the more routine situations can go a long way in customer satisfaction.


Do you have any circles of hell you’d like to add? What is the most frustrating customer service aspect you’ve come across? Feel free to share and join in the conversation!