Good Service Creates Loyal Customers
If you are a regular reader then you know how much I hate poor customer service. Last week I had an issue with my internet service provider that really ticked me off. The modem that I rent from the company stopped working on Sunday. I called the 800 number provided, waded through the electronic prompts until I was able to talk to a live person. That first person was nice enough as she walked me through the steps to make sure the modem was dead, which it was. She then scheduled a service appointment for Wednesday sometime between 1 and 3, which was the earliest they could get here. She also explained that if I wanted to drive to their Des Moines office on Monday before 6 pm, I could exchange modems.
Not having access to e-mail, etc. for 3 days was not an acceptable option, so Monday after work I drove to Des Moines to exchange modems. I gave them the bad one and in return they gave me a new one, so I headed home ready to get online. The modem I received was different than my original. It was a combination modem and router, not 2 pieces like I had before, and I thought that this could be good. I thought wrong. My wireless devices still didn’t connect. Because I could connect a computer to the modem with a wire, I had a connection to communicate with the internet provider via web chat. With a web chat I thought I would be able to read the directions given and have my wireless devices connected to the internet in minutes. Again, I thought wrong.
According to the agent on the other end of the web chat, the combination modem and router that would only work if I agreed to pay $3.95 per month. If I agreed, then he would activate the router and our wireless devices would become operational in as few as 48 to 72 hours. At first I thought he was simply doing his job and offering me an additional service. So I asked him if he could make my modem work with my existing router that works perfectly, or if it was policy to only allow the modem to work if I paid the additional fees. The response was an exact copy of the statement offering their solution for $3.95/month. I asked again and received the same response. Now I was really mad.
My wife told me that I was just being cheap, but I knew better. I ended the web chat by refusing to be robbed by their horrible corporate policies and would find another, more reasonable solution. I was going to save our conversation, but he took it away before I had a chance to memorialize it. As small business owners and managers, this is NOT the way to create loyal customers and repeat business. You cannot improve the bottom line long term by deceiving and bullying customers. You might be able to do that with some, but the vast majority will vote with their dollars and do business with people they like and can trust.
Be reasonable, and don’t hide behind bogus statements that don’t work to understand your customer’s needs.
In the end, we bought a different modem and it works perfectly. Now we will save the rental fee and have the new modem paid for in just a few months. Our original plan was to return the provider’s modem/router to the service tech when he showed up to “fix” our problem. Unfortunately he never showed up, perpetuating the bad service. Now I am checking into alternatives for our internet provider.
Small Business Today is a bi-weekly feature written by Tom Friedman, market president of First National Bank, Ankeny.