When Customer Service Really Begins: A Story on Trust and Hidden Fees

by Lori Saitz on September 16, 2009

Lori Saitz

The email, the intro, and some annoyance
The person on the other end of the phone introduced himself and asked if I recalled seeing emails from his company, as they’d sent me a few over the past couple of months. I said I’d seen some from companies with similar offerings, but I wasn’t sure if any were specifically from his business.

We exchanged questions and answers for about seven minutes and then he kind of slipped in an “Oh by the way, we charge $199 to set up.”

That he waited until he thought he had me interested to throw that tidbit out there annoyed me a little, especially since his competitors do not charge a set up fee at all and we’d already gone through pricing.

The tip off
We talked a minute more and then he said something that tipped me off to the fact that he hadn’t been to my web site yet. I made an admonishing, but lighthearted comment about how could he think about calling me without at least going to my site first. Then he said something else that revealed he didn’t even know exactly what kind of gourmet product my company sells. Which is when I chastised him even more seriously.

He offered to email some information to me and I accepted.
Then he realized that he in fact did not have my email address. Interesting, since at the beginning of the call he was almost questioning how I could have ignored all those emails they sent me. Two days later, I still haven’t looked at what he sent and he’s going to think I’m not working with him because of that set up fee, which is not the case.

This guy clearly doesn’t realize customer service starts long before someone becomes a customer.

What’s that old saying, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression”? So true! If he can’t be honest and up front with me when I’m a prospect, that doesn’t bode well for my experience after I hand over my money.

Since I fashion myself a customer service expert …
Allow me to share with you what I would change about how this guy approached our call.

First: Before picking up the phone, I would recommend he glance over my web site to get a feel for what my company does. There’s no excuse for not doing this!

Next: Before asking me if I’d received his emails, he might want to verify that he even HAS my email address in his file. If, for some crazy reason, he didn’t manage to check before calling, then he could at least acknowledge his oversight. Personally, I would inject some humor, and say something like, “well, I guess that explains why you haven’t gotten our emails then.”

Lastly: In regard to the set up fee and higher percentages that his company charges (when his competitors don’t), I would address that elephant in the room straight on. Say, “I know our competitors don’t charge this, or charge less than this, and here’s why.” Explain to me what extra value I get that justifies those charges. For most people, price is not the most important factor in purchasing decisions … but value is.

Start providing a truthful and authentic customer experience before someone is a customer and you’ll be right on track for creating and maintaining a strong customer relationship.

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Guest contributor Lori Saitz is founder of Zen Rabbit Baking Company. She helps people show appreciation for and give recognition to others. The main (delicious!) tool her team uses to help accomplish this important feat is through The Gratitude Cookie(tm). A thin, crunchy cross between a butter and a sugar cookie, The Gratitude Cookie is so named because if you’re eating the cookies, you’re encouraged to think about something you are grateful for as you munch on each one.

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