If you want more customers, you’re probably spending lots of resources on sales and marketing. That’s good. But before you do too much more of that – pay attention to what experts say – that it costs 5 to 10 times more to get a new customer than it does to keep an old one. An important reminder to take care of our current customers first. Otherwise…

…well…read on about Sally. It’s a true story. And believe it or not – the detail has been condensed. I hope you’ll read it – maybe even share with your service team. It may be the most valuable thing you’ve done all year to increase sales for your organization.

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Sally had been with the same internet provider for years.

All of the sudden, everything slowed down. Sometimes it stopped altogether. This was a real problem for her business.

It took three slow weeks to get her high-speed service back. During that time, she shared stories with me about her efforts to make it happen. Here is a brief “call report”.

Calls #1, #2, #3 – Called during break at work. Recording said hold times were 15 minutes. Didn’t have that much time so hung up.
Call #4 – Held for 20 minutes. Was accidentally disconnected when a rep answered.
Call #5 – Held for 30 minutes. After describing problem, rep said computer (Sally’s) was about to crash; better get IT support immediately. IT checked out computer. No problems found.
Call #6 – Held for 20 minutes. Was told needed to re-arrange office so equipment frequencies wouldn’t “fight” with one another. After explaining that equipment had been working in current configuration for 24 months, rep explained that was all he could do because his computer was down and no diagnostics could be run.

At the end of the week, I asked Sally, “Have you considered switching providers?”

She said, “Yes – but I have been with them for so long. They’ve done well until now. Maybe they are just having a short term problem.”

Call #7 – Held for 25 minutes. Was told the problem needed to be sent to the next level of support for which there were 60 minute hold times. The rep recommended a call back, promising a return call within 24 hours. After 48 hours, still no calls.

72 hours later, I asked Sally, “Have you considered switching providers?”

She said, “I’m about to that point. It will cost me a lot of time and money to change everything.”

Call #8 – Held for 15 minutes, asked for the higher level service rep and said would hold no matter how long it took. Rep said that was stupid because it would take at least 60 minutes of her time when they could just call her back in 24 hours. Ha Ha – “I’ll hold”. Finally got through and told the tech person would not hang up until the problem was fixed. On phone for two hours. It had nothing to do with computer but with provider lines. High-speed service returned to normal.

The next day, by e-mail, she received the monthly invoice. She e-mailed back asking if she could get a discount since there had been so many problems for ¾ of the billing period.

The response explained that Sally had signed an agreement saying that the provider was not responsible for downtime.

Sally wrote back saying that her request was not just because of downtime, but because of poor service, long wait times and lack of response. It wasn’t the money. It was the principle.

The response was an automated one saying she would hear from them soon. She didn’t.

Sally cancelled her service.

She had been far more loyal and patient than most customers would have been. Each of these incidents was an opportunity for her internet provider to maintain or even build customer loyalty. All lost opportunities.

The next day – she called and said, “Get this! You won’t believe it!”

She had just received a color brochure at her home. It was about high-speed internet service with tech support 24 hours a day; 7 days per week. The advertised price was less than she had been paying.

And — it was from the service company she had just cancelled.

I found the same brochure at my house. Four color. Door-to-door distribution.

It seemed they were spending a lot of resources to fill up their “business bucket” – when good longtime customers like Sally were falling through the holes created by customer service problems.

I couldn’t help but think it would have been better to plug up those holes first.

Author's Bio: 

Jan has thirty years of sales and management experience and loves sharing it (plus her love for solving problems and for making work fun) with others so that they can get through tough situations, make big goals and celebrate these achievements.

She is now President of Business Class Inc which provides resources to managers and business owners such as one-on-one coaching, master mind groups and management team retreats. Plus FREE resources such as a Blog, E-Zine and Quote Libary, which includes over 100 motivational quotes ready to download, print, post and share to help teach, learn, remind and reinforce important keys for business success.