Skip to comments.The Customer Ain't Always Right
Posted on 07/11/2007 9:45:02 AM PDT by Kaslin
Hundreds of cell phone customers are being given the boot, accused of being too high maintenance.
Sprint-Nextel is disconnecting more than 1,000 subscribers on grounds the clients call customer service too often and make "unreasonable requests."
The 1,200 people getting dropped will have to find a new carrier by the end of the month.
A Sprint representative said the average customer calls customer service less than once a month, but the 1,200 clients getting the boot call 40-50 times as often.
Sprint said whatever the complaint, it has worked to resolve it but due to the volume of calls it's obvious customers involved are not happy.
In a statement, the company said: "Rather than continue to operate in a situation that was unsatisfactory for Sprint and our subscribers, we chose to terminate our relationship with those customers to allow them to pursue other options."
In my work, I do get plenty of time to deal with customers who, to say the least, have unrealistic expectations - people who want things which are impossible and/or who get amazingly rude when not instantly given what they demand. More than once I've wished I could just say, "ok, I've had it; I've closed your account, we don't want your business, please go annoy some other company".
On the flip side, companies can also be more reasonable - I've often wished I could just forgive something in an account because it was a one-time thing, or the customer was in a jam and just needed a kindness...I guess my plea is for everyone to just remember that we're all people on each end of the line, and all of us can use a break from time to time.
In all my years, I have always preached the constant re-evaluation of the most problematic customers, and refusing their patronage when necessary. All that wasted energy could be used on new and existing “good” customers.
I wish more companies would have the guts to do what Sprint did. Based on what I read the booted customers deserved it.
My business’s corproate motto is ‘The customer is seldom right.”
I know a few people who have Sprint and they have to constantly call them b/c of mis-billings.
If I was one of those customers and was getting “booted”, I’d be happy, no penalty for breaking the contract.
What is your business!
I have definitely fired clients in the past. When they demand beyond their business level, run extremely late in their payments, and abuse the staff..they are gone.
Shoot, there are websites devoted to this principle.
I have been in a Cingular store when customers come in to complain...and more than once, have seen the problem solved by simply showing the customer what THEY did wrong...like being idiots.
“The customer is always right” works when the average person is considerate and makes good-faith efforts to do right. Unfortunately, our society is not like that. Far too many consider themselves “victims” and completely refuse to take ANY responsibility or to make any real effort. Many of those same customers want something for nothing.
Business owners simply cannot afford to give away the business for those who complain all the time.
Anyone ever been to a restaurant and witnessed someone go out of their way to come up with a complaint, then try to con the manager into comping their meal? Happens very regularly. When I have had a legitimate complaint in the past - comping the meal was common. Now it is rare - and only if it is a BIG screw up on the part of the business, which is understandable. All I want is the problem to be fixed - I’m not looking for a freebie.
Back to the cell phone business. I have known folks who would get a new phone, then decide that they don’t like it (actually just want a different phone) and so they complain and come up with all sorts of excuses - calling the provider repeatedly to bug them into a different replacement phone. The phone the customer has is perfectly fine/functional. It just isn’t what they want (and it’s after the legal window to be able to get out).
Folks play the system - so the system has to change.
Anytime I call a company, any company, with am issue I try to remember that it is another human being on the other end.
If I cannot get my issue resolved with the lower tier I ask, do not demand, to speak to someone higher on the chain of command than the person I'm speaking to.
If I cannot get my issue resolved, after going as high as I can on the call, I send an e-mail to the highest ranking person in the company that I can scrounge an e-mail address for.
I never yell, I never curse, I never demand.
It seems to work for me. I am rarely refused and even in my e-mails I am concise, consistent, and polite.
For example, I used to frequent a sushi bar in town for my lunch breaks. The server just got off the phone with an angry customer. The customer was angry because he wanted to place a to-go order for the lunch specials because the last time he was there the order took a long time (45+ minutes). The server promptly told him no he couldn't do that, then started complaining to me about him. "Some people! You give them a hand and they want to take your arm, He should know that we are busy during our lunch specials and should have come earlier!" and other things said that led me to believe that the server thought he was doing his customers a favor by serving them.
IMHO the server should be thankful that I am there to patronize his business because there are literally hundreds of eateries for me to choose from. That attitude put me off, and I haven't eaten there since. People are demanding with their hard earned money, and their money will go to whoever meets their needs. That has been a prevailing attitude with a lot of employees I've seen, that customers should be thankful they are there to serve them, I believe the business OWNER would have a different attitude and be thankful for every customer he gets. Just a little business epiphany now that I have gone from employee to owner.
Sorry for the rambling....
We opened our company in November of 1997. I’ve routinely ‘fired clients’ in the years since. Its just not worth it to have crank customers taking up the staffs time with ‘small ball’ stuff, or outright ridiculous claims/requests.
I have many, many clients (insurance), who don’t pay their bills on time and then they get their next billing which includes a late charge and they call up screaming that the company is ripping them off by charging a late charge. I gently ask when they paid their bill and then explain that since they paid 10-12 AFTER the due date, the company added the late charge. They bitch and complain but I basically show no mercy. They ask what they can do to avoid the late charge, and I tell them directly, “pay your bill on time”.
‘I have definitely fired clients in the past. When they demand beyond their business level, run extremely late in their payments, and abuse the staff..they are gone.’
Same here. Its amazing how many clients seem to think they have a God Given Right to pay us net 60.
Screw that, I’m not a bank, nor a loan shark.
Hah, you and me both. I packed up their files, copied any data to disk and charged them for the time and shipping in my last invoice.
I agree. I’ll take quite a bit from people, but when a customer becomes abusive, it’s time for them to walk. As long as a person is respectful then they can continue to do business.
Wow! Sprint must have some very big problems if their average customer calls less than once a month! Does that mean their average customer calls at least once in 2 months, 6 or even in a year?
The problem with this is that Sprint does not explain why these customers were calling them so much!
I am of two minds-—deliberate harrassment of the service is one thing. I would love to fire some of the people I have to deal with because they are just plain jerks, ignorant or crazy.
But, for example, when the company messes up and it takes an enormous amount of calls to get them to fix their mistakes is different. A couple of years ago, my health insurance tried to deny me coverage for something that was supposed to be covered. I was e-mailing, faxing, and calling them for weeks. I finally had to go to the Insurance regulatory board to get them to finally pay up. It was horrible....one of the most stressful periods in my life because I was very sick
When Sprint took over my old carrier, they screwed up the billing conversion so bad that they sent me a refund check while they were sending me to collections.
I wouldn’t use Sprint if they were the last cellular company on earth.
We're not just talking about someone complaining about the bill or some other problem. Apparently we're talking about people who have so much time to waste they call customer service on a daily basis, or even a couple of times a day.
I can't imagine what kind of person would want to go through the agony of calling customer service, with all the recorded voices and push 2 for Spanish, and enter your ten digit phone number and push the pound key, and enter your zip code and push the pound key, and then listen to elevator music, and then give the person who answers your name, address, and phone number, every single day. Obviously they have too much timem on their hands.
so they would rather fire the customer than fix the problems
Net 60? And you let a valuable customer like that go? j/k
These were more like net 90+, c level business volume, and wanted basically free advice and service all the time.
Yep, that pretty much says it.
Works for me!
I’vr had to call Sprint customer service about once a year, and some of those times have been to change plans and stuff.
I do consulting work as well. But I keep my copy of that picture in the desk rather than up on the wall. Not all customers have a sense of humor.
‘Net 60? And you let a valuable customer like that go? j/k
These were more like net 90+, c level business volume, and wanted basically free advice and service all the time.’
And I’ve noted repeatedly a coorelation between high maintenance clients and slow payments.
Its just not worth it.
I had one guy want me in his office weekly and when he got his invoice he exploded.
I explained to him that he is paying me for my experience, knowledge, opinion and time. It is all I have to exchange for money; I am not here to fix the plumbing or change the oil in your car.
Damned straight, and sorry for long reply. Once when working retail I sold a customer a computer package (before they came all in one box) which had computer, monitor, and printer. The special was that the monitor and printer were free and no not free after rebate, as in free. Rang up the computer, monitor and printer, then directly discounted the price of the monitor and printer off the total.
A few days later the customer brought in the printer to return it. We said you can return it, but you didn't pay for it so it will be $0 refund.
She went over and looked to see how much the printer was if you bought it separately ($99) and demanded the $99 refund for the printer.
I said no. She calls the department manager over. He looks at the receipt and asks me about it then tells the customer no. She says call the store manager.
Store manager comes over and she complains that she didn't want the printer and wants to return it, and that she spends so many (complete BS) dollars in the store every month. Store manager returns the printer and gives her the $99 back (that she didn't pay) AND gives her an additional gift card of $50 for the hassle that we gave her.
Customer left and we asked what in the heck the store manager was doing. He said it was better to keep the customer then lose the customer.
The aftermath was that the store manager ended up giving this same customer about $50 a week in gift cards in order to keep her business every time she found things to complain about that she shouldn't be getting anyways.
We figured that the customer the store manager insisted on keeping amounted to a continuing net less for the store overall. But the store manager never figured that out.
The customer ain't always right.
My strategy as well.
I'd also add: be reasonable, be persistent, and (most importantly) keep notes. Get their name, record the date, time, and summary of your phone call. It's amazing how fast you can cut through the B.S. on the other end when you say to them: "I called on June 5th around noon and spoke with Nancy in regards to this issue..." Gives them very little wiggle room as they know that your records match theirs and they can't try to brush you off.
The Target is great, fantastic service, friendly staff but a horrible return policy. I say that every time but I don’t really expect it to change. Their employees know this so I don’t give them a hard time.
The local Home Depot is awful and I tell them that every time I get something from there because they offer a feedback opp with every purchase. The store is filthy, the employees are surly and the aisles are blocked with hand trucks ALL THE TIME.. To top that off they canceled the military discount program. I use every opportunity to provide them with the countdown to the grand opening of Lowe’s and the address of the local Ace.
Our Walmart is the same way. Dirty store, filthy floors, no cashiers, surly employees, Soviet era styled inventory (half empty shelves and “our truck comes in on Thursday or Friday” excuses).. Here, I use their request for feedback to tell them how bad this store is and how much I like the Walmart in the next city over which is smaller but clean, filled with nice employees and shelves that actually have inventory. If I need a bulb, I can get a bulb not an excuse.
Being on both ends of the customer/supplier relationship I feel a responsibility to shop and patronize at places that make the effort, even if I drive a little longer to get there. I would gladly pay a little more in every aspect of my purchasing life to get better service. I practically have to force my wife to drive with me to the market 10 miles away because they have better service than the local Shaws.
I agree that this is a good thing.
Here’s a question: Could this be a precedence that insurance companies could follow? For example, if a customer is receiving too many benefits for the money they put into the system, could they be dropped?
Yeah, that's why he's in management.
Are you joking? This has been the practice for a long time with many insurance companies.
Little more than a year later we were billed a $100 disconnect fee after we canceled our son's phone when he moved out of state. The cancellation was after the contract period had ended and we were repeatedly assured that this fee would be waived. It took us nearly a year and again with intervention by the consumer affairs division of the state Attorney General's office to get this problem resolved. Needless to say we are now with another company.
I have a buddy that works for a major credit card company... they have let some of their customers go... but not for a reason you expect (complaints, ect).
He said it was mostly older people... or folks with some kind of social issuse... and they just wanted somebody to talk to. So they would just call up customer service just and just rabmle on and on. The CS folks, for the most part are always friendly/polite...and they can’t exactly hang up on right away.
So these folks would just keep asking about balances, offers, rates, whatever... to keep the CS person on the phone.. just to hear another live person.
One side doth not a story make. If Sprint/Nextel is the mark of excellence in cellular service we are in trouble. So, someone calls and they are on hold for a long time, hang up and call again, again, again. It doesn’t take long to make 25+ calls to have a problem resolved, especially a billing error where you want to ensure you pay what you should. Nextel is on my Sxxxx list. So, Nextel can’t deal with their poor customer service so they blame the customer. What a great company!! Hmm, two tin cans with string might work! Unacceptable move by the Sprint/Nextel management losers (IMHO)!
“Unacceptable move by the Sprint/Nextel management losers (IMHO)!”
This type customer comes to mind.
When I lose my temper, it is usually when I am on the phone with customer service. I think it is the knowledge that these people’s jobs are to keep me from the people who actually have the power to help me.
And you know what? Screaming my head off at them works better then being nice. I used to be nice but never got anywhere. I learn to be mean to customer service from customer service.
If they would just do what is right to begin with, but no. Now I don’t know if it is even possible for me to be civil when I have to call customer service. Being mean and rude it too ingrained in me now. But it doesn’t matter to the CEO of the company because he has people in customer service to keep him from knowing how much I hate his company.
More humble then most. I don’t know about you but my time is worth money and I don’t deal with schmucks. There are plenty of other providers of services who treat customers with respect and don’t just take their dollars and run while laughing all the way to the bank. I’m a show me kind of person and if a service is mediocre I really don’t need them! They may get an A for effort but an F for execution; just my HUMBLE opinion, REALLY! Enough of this for now. I have other things to do (earn a living) which are more pressing then this forum right now. Take care!
That’s kind of sad.
I worked for Airgas years ago doing AR reconciliations and I recall once getting a letter from a fairly large customer that they were henceforth going to pay us Net 120. So I set their account to COD as they were already as much as 180 past due on a number of invoices.
Their CEO called me personally to bitch about it and I told him that if he needed a loan to do business that he needed to see a banker and that my company was not in the loan business.
So they paid us up to current, returned our cylinders, and took their business to Air Liquide.
And filed Chapter 13 about six months later and hosed Air Liquide out of a bundle of money - I got a nice atta-boy from my firm and an excellent reference when I moved on to my next job. I did the right thing then and, IMHO, Sprint is doing the right thing, too.