The Hidden Cost of Customer Service: Don’t promise what you’re not willing to do

When your customers can compare you to your competition by just clicking, bait and switch tactics can seriously backfire.

Bait and Switch in Business

Bait and Switch in Business

Have you recently been persuaded by an advertisement (email, web site, mailer) to try a new/different product or service, just to realize that it was really not all that much? That happened recently to me and it let me thinking about the value of customer service in today’s highly competitive, and dynamic internet based commerce comparisons. To make a long story short after having a small service issue with my one of my current service providers, I was tempted by an ad to try the services of another company, who advertised “free trial”, “60 days refunds”, “24×7 technical support”, “extensive security and infrastructure investment”, “ease of use”, and “commitment to quality”. And all of that for a price that was almost 1/2 of the current costs that I was paying.

As you can imagine, I decided to give them a try, and quickly signed on with them in order to give them a try (thankfully without actually canceling my current service) and very quickly in less than 5 minutes I started to see the difference between their advertisements and their true business offers.

Price

The advertised price was about 1/2 of my current service provider (but they forgot to as that this was only if you sign from the get go for their 2 year pre-paid plan). If you didn’t sign for it, the actual price was about the same as my current provider. Still I decided that the price being the same I could try it .. I should have known better ..

Extensive Security and Infrastructure Investment

It is true that at least it seems they had a better infrastructure set up since automatically it will not only set up my account, but complete an initial web site set up and configuration without any personal intervention from me. On the other hand it also never offered me an option to decide which features or how could that installation be configured and let me to manually have to change all the defaults later. I should have known better..

24×7 Technical Support

With an online service, and with the need or the wish to have my service being hosted by a reliable provider, a 24×7 technical support policy sounded like one of the greatest benefits anyone could ask for. As I was setting up my site I very quickly realized that there were some issues with the way the site managed some programs (for those of you who are into it, I immediately experienced problems using standard FTP to upload my files, and had to manually create and manage subdirectories, something the FTP program I use was able to do in any other site that I worked with).. I immediately went ahead and tried to contact Tech Support to Open a Case and have the issue fixed, was I wrong or what. First I had to go back to their main site, create a case, receive an email telling me to get back into the site and re-categorize my request so it would be taken care of at some point, and 12 hours after that, I still had not being contacted by their support department. It seems to me that the “24” on their policy means you will not be contacted in less than 24 hours.. I should have known better..

60 Days Refunds

As I indicated at the beginning I was testing this new service provider just because I had a minor issue with one of my current providers, and wanted to see if there were others out there who could improve the experience I was having. Well, after a whole day having technical problems, and really not getting any satisfactory answers, I decided to go ahead, cancel my trial, and request my refund, was I in for a surprise. First in less than 30 minutes after I requested my cancelation and even before I got the first response from the Technical Support team, someone from sales was already asking me if I really wanted to cancel my service and get a refund. Right after I responded to their email, they responded back asking me the reasons why I wanted to cancel the service (and still have not confirmed to me that the service was cancelled and the refund processed). After I responded to that one, they answered back and replied again asking me now for the “last four letters of the password used to set up the account” in order to proceed with the cancelation. Right now it is about 24 hours after I requested the cancelation and still haven’t hear back from them. I should have known better..

Lessons Learned:

As I have hear many times, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is..

After all I am happy that I actually tested the other service provider, and that I went back to mine. In today’s competitive environment, individuals and business should be required to actually verify if the services they are receiving are worth their time and money. Checking out the competition should be healthy not only for the individuals and business purchasing the services but also for the service providers, since they will then retain those individuals and business that really appreciate their efforts. This should only help improve the business itself, by helping increase their customer satisfaction levels, and by extension their profitability on the long run.

That reminds me also that employees should understand the need to actually shop around your company competitors to find out if your organization actually has your best interest in mind. I remember many years ago during the early year 2000 recession when employees asked what was happening that they had not received a pay rise in over two years a HR (human resources) person told over 50 people in a meeting that

The economy is really bad, and if you don’t like it, you can leave. Good luck finding another job out there..

(courtesy of crooksandliars.com)

(courtesy of crooksandliars.com)

I should have known then and there that there was no loyalty from the company to their employees, and by extension there should be no loyalty from the employees to them. It seemed that already in the early year 2000 the only thing on the mind of that company executive team was their own self interest, and the need to manipulate the stock price in order to continue to get their quarterly bonuses. As you can imagine, if you agree that employee satisfaction could be one of the best indicators of company performance, employee satisfaction figures have dropped vertically, and the company results have followed the same trend in the last 13 years. The company has barely managed to maintain their stock value at the same or slightly below their figures at the end of the year 2000, or in other words the company has managed to loose and never recover 75% of their stock value during the last 13 years (while their executives continue to receive inflated restricted stock options to make up for the performance of their old regular stocks).

Let’s consider that as employees, customers, or business, we are responsible for actually verifying the claims of those who provide services to us, either be other business, or even our own employers. In todays competitive environment, it is up to each and every one of us to determine if we are getting the best value for our (money, efforts, skills), and not to blindly trust their claims to fame.

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