Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Smart Customers versus Dumb Policies (the customer will always win)

Why is it that some companies seem to go out of their way to frustrate their customers? A friend of mine related the following story about his experience with a fast-growing regional wireless company, we’ll call them Wireless North (WN for short).

My friend has four phones, unlimited texting, two data plans, and who knows how many other features in his plan. He also has two children in college. One of those children, David (not his real name, lest WN figures this out), lives in another state this semester at his co-op job. My friend got an email from WN saying David has used over half his calling minutes (400) outside the calling area. So, like any good Baby Boomer, Dad calls WN customer service to get more details. He’s told that the calling plan prohibits a customer from having more that 50% of their minutes “roaming.” He’s then told his two options are: 1) stop using the phone until David gets back into the calling area, or 2) find another provider.

Now, is it just me, or does this not make sense? WN wants a long time customer to STOP using the service or go to a competitor? Do they not realize it costs at least 5 times more to get a new customer than to keep an existing one?

Meanwhile, David, in true Millennial fashion, has a solution. “Don’t worry, Dad,” he said. “When I come home this weekend, I’ll call you before I go to bed. Leave the phone call going over night, and by morning I will have more than half my minutes in my calling area.” Problem solved.

So what can we learn?
• First, don’t underestimate the intelligence of your customers. If you come up with a policy, rule, or process that is not in their best interest, they will find a way around it.
• Second, make it easy for existing customers to find solutions when the way they use your product conflicts with a company policy. Don’t suggest they go away….they probably will.
• Third, get rid of company policies that don’t make sense (see #2).

The customer service rep was following the rules. Your customers, however, won’t. Recognize that up front and find ways to make it easy for your customers to deal with you. They are always smarter than you when it comes to spending THEIR money.

1 comment:

David Danziger said...

Hi John. I always enjoy your posts. This one was an absolute classic. Your title says it all. The "solution" the son came up with just demonstrates the utter absurdity of the policy. He is, indeed, a smart customer. It is a shame to see a company going to such lengths to chase away a good customer, yet it's amazing to see how frequently it happens. Great post, and thanks for sharing it!