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Stuck in the Middle

You never want your customers to be stuck in the middle between you and one of your vendors.  Situations like that only frustrate the customer.  It is YOU who should be the middle man.

Here’s an example:

T-Mobile tells me they can not sell me a phone because their credit check comes back with an alert to notify the customer.  The alert gives them a phone number to call the customer to verify the customer’s identity.  When the T-Mobile representative calls that number, they get a disconnect recording.

The instructions I got from T-Mobile was to call Trans Union and request they update my phone number.  I called the number they gave me for Trans Union (which, by the way, was the wrong number) and I was told Trans Union has no phone number on file for me.

Here I am as a customer, stuck in the middle.  T-Mobile is pointing the finger at Trans Union, and Trans Union is saying the solution rests with T-Mobile.  This is very bad customer service.

In your own business, do you do things like this to your customer?

When a part doesn’t arrive from your supplier, do you tell the customer to call the supplier?

When a product is defective, do you tell your customer (who bought the product from you), they must contact the manufacturer?

If you answer “yes” to any of those, you really need to re-evaluate how you treat your customers.

For years I worked in various customer service positions.  In fact, as a small business owner, I still do.  And, here is my position on this.

1)  The customer is not always right, but the customer is always the customer.  For this reason, it is important to mitigate any situation that may be making the customer unhappy.

2)  The buck stops with me.  If someone contacts me with a problem I cannot resolve, I will hold the customer’s hand until that problem is resolved.  Using my T-Mobile issue as an example, the manager I talked to at T-Mobile’s credit department should have said, “Mr. Walton, I don’t know what is going on if Trans Union says they don’t have a phone number for you, but I will research this and keep you posted.  You will hear about my progress before the day ends.  What number can I reach you at?”

3)  Never blame the other guy(s).  Never say, it is someone else’s fault.  Again, using my T-Mobile example, they are blaming Trans Union.  How does T-Mobile look now that I’ve called Trans Union twice and have been told twice that T-Mobile is wrong.

4)  Always offer an alternative solution.  Okay, sometimes there is not an alternative, but if there is, recommend it to the customer.  In the case with T-Mobile, the sales guy helping me did suggest I purchase a pre-paid phone.  The only problem is, that would cost me an extra $20 a month.   But, he tried.  Whereas, the manager in their credit department was all to quick to push me off to Trans Union without any alternative or remedy.

5)  Never script your solution.  Nothing is more frustrating than to have someone read a script about “policy”.  Rigid policies will chase customers away.  If you own the business, you have power to change your policy.  If you are an employee, and your boss does not give you the authority to modify policy in order to make a customer happy, then you are working for the wrong company and fire that company and go hire another one to employ you.  Employees must be empowered and trusted to help the customer through difficult times.

I will be calling T-Mobile again today.  It will be an escalation call.  That is, I keep asking for the person’s boss until I get someone who will take the bull by the horns and resolve the problem.

D. Brent Walton, cpp, is a business owner/entrepreneur.    Over the last 37 years, Mr. Walton has worked in many customer service positions.  Always an advocate for empowered employees, Mr. Walton has seen first hand how it pleases customers when an employee can respond with true empathy and say, “I can resolve your problem, and if I get stuck, I can find someone who can.  We will get this resolved.”   Visit Mr. Walton’s studio’s web site at http://www.dbwalton.com.

About beckwithmansion

Author, artist and photographer D. Brent Walton has some down-to-earth, common-sense tips for improving your business. After a career of 32 years in high-tech, he has moved on to running his own businesses. His book, 25 Things Business Owners Do to Undermine Their Business is available at Amazon.com.

4 Responses to Stuck in the Middle

  1. db walton says:

    Update: I just got off the phone with a representative named “Chaz” at T-Mobiles credit department. He refused to escalate my call, and hung up on me when I asked to speak to someone who can resolve the problem. I was polite and calm. (By the way, this is a common tactic in call centers. If the call goes on too long, they get penalized for being on the phone too long with a customer. I guess it took me too long to explain the issue.)

    T-Mobile, you are not looking very good at this point.

  2. Jennifer says:

    Why don’t you just use AT&T?

  3. db walton says:

    Update: On the phone with Josh and he seems customer focused. I think he’s found a solution that works. For now, I have other things to take care of, but I will update later as to whether Josh’s solution did the trick.

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