I received a phone call from a service that I have been using for nearly a decade. The call came in the middle of an early afternoon run. I had decided to take a lunch time run to clear my head and recharge. Seeing the service pop up on my caller ID, I answered thinking that there was a problem. I picked up and the cheery customer service representative informed me that it was a customer check-up call.
She never took a breath before launching into a series of increasingly annoying questions. I kept running while providing short answers. I was annoyed but curious where this was headed. It quickly became apparent that this was far from a “check-up” call it was an attempt to sell me services I had no desire to buy.
For almost 10 years I have been happy with the service and often recommended it to others. In less than 10 minutes, my largely favorable view of the company had been tainted. It is not the attempt to upsell me that rankled but the poor way in which it was handled.
I am not outing the company as I have no desire to damage their reputation. I’d rather use this as an opportunity to learn and assess our own behaviors with customers. So listed below are the three key mistakes this company made and what we can learn from it.
Mistake #1: Treating customers like strangers. The rep had access to my account information. A quick look at my history would have revealed the number of years I have been a customer and the products I am currently using. Instead, the rep treated me like a brand new customer asking me if I knew about different features that are basic to the service. The entire conversation could have gone differently if she had immediately acknowledged me as a long term customer and led with what she knew about me and my business. Instead it felt like meeting an old friend who shakes your hand and says, “Where do I know you from?”
Mistake #2: The conversation was a lie. The representative said it was a customer check-up call but she never asked about my current service. She simply launched into a series of scripted questions about features. Be honest about why you’re calling and set the expectation up front. If you’re calling to tell me about services I may not be using, say that.
Mistake #3: Focus on quota, not customer. Clearly the company has an internal initiative to improve revenues and shift customers into a higher priced featured product. I felt like little more than a “mark” rather than a valued customer. It would have been nice to hear “thanks for being our customer for so long,” or some acknowledgement of our history. It would have been even nicer to have a real conversation that was relevant to me and my business. Rather than scripted questions, ask real questions about my business and goals and offer solutions that make sense.
Proactive calls to customers are a wonderful way to nurture relationships, and yes even grow your business. However, it is important to ensure that in every interaction you put the customer first. Today, even small companies have access to huge amounts of data about their customers. Use that data to serve up messages that are relevant to your customer base.
In this particular case, no service would have been a better option. I was perfectly happy before the awkward fake customer check up call. The call put the company on my radar in a different way. It has made me hyper aware of their marketing messages on other platforms, and I am not sure I like the new direction. A once loyal customer is now eyeing other options.
I’d love to hear from you. Have you ever been on the receiving end of proactive service that went bad? How do you prevent this in your own business?