Will the Welcome Mat Disappear

How often has a friendly sales representative treated you like royalty—until the business had your money? Suddenly, you were no longer a V.I.P. If you had a question or problem, you were essentially told to take a number and wait your turn.

Recently, two entirely different service providers (a small entity that operates from a single office versus a global enterprise) left me similarly frustrated and inconvenienced over problems that required quick resolutions. In both cases, the issues resulted from their technology and persisted because of their lack of competent and attentive personnel. Another striking similarity between them presented an aha moment:

A phone call to either business delivers telling clues about how they prioritize customers.

Both of their phone systems rank callers by income potential. New customers are prompted to “press one,” removing the need to contemplate any other menu item. Up next are existing clients with an interest in purchasing additional services. Troubleshooting options for the most common issues come last.

Getting routed to the right department does not grant immediate entry. Recorded messages communicate the multiple ways the two companies delay service:

– instructions to leave a message for an anticipated return call within 48 hours

– recommendations to text or email the concern and receive feedback within 48 hours

– estimated hold times of 30 minutes and longer

– disconnects before someone answers

– disconnects after someone answers and obtains the customer’s contact information but doesn’t use it to call the person back

As a last resort, I reclassified myself as a new customer and pressed one, hoping to make headway. In the case of both providers, a human instantaneously picked up for the “new customer” and spoke in a welcoming tone, granting an image of someone rolling out a red carpet. The mood shifted as soon as I informed the representative that I was desperately trying to reach a person who could deal with my time-sensitive matter. I received the following responses:

– apologies and then transfers to other departments with the same recorded messages, hold times, and disconnects

– attitudes that conveyed “handling your problem is not my job” and then transfers to other departments with the same recorded messages, hold times, and disconnects

Clearly, no one died, but I might have been better prepared for interruptions in service or avoided them completely had I used a simple vetting process to understand how the businesses would treat me once I signed on the dotted line:

I could have called them on the phone, selected a troubleshooting option, and listened for their response.

Nothing speaks more about an organization of any size than how it communicates with customers who have legitimate concerns and complaints. If the policy is to remove the welcome mat, keep people purposely waiting in limbo (perhaps hoping they’ll go away), or not invest in systems and personnel that prioritize service, then the business doesn’t deserve the customers it has and should not be soliciting more.

Now armed with this information, how will I respond?

I’ll let my money talk by walking away when the time comes to renew their agreements.

Sallie W. Boyles, a.k.a. Write Lady

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