A Surefire Blueprint for Losing Customers
I’ve only ever purchased tires from one large, nation-wide company (which shall remain nameless) and for good reason. Prior to moving to Oregon this establishment has provided me with exceptional service, offering great selection and pricing. A recent visit to their Eugene, Oregon location changed all of that. In fact, if you’re interested in learning how to lose customers (hopefully none of you), here’s the exact blueprint for doing so in just a seven easy steps. Let’s get started.
Don’t keep enough inventory
A few Saturdays ago, I arranged with my wife to have her follow me to the tire shop so I could drop the car off to have new tires installed. After a long wait, I told the guy behind the counter that I wanted a new set of tires. He promptly told me that he had to order them and it would be about five days. Wanting to try to get something done that day, I walked out and went to another tire shop.
The lack of inventory wouldn’t have been an issue had it not been for the fact that the other tire shop had several different tires available that could be installed within an hour. My only hangup was that the other shop cost a bit more. In retrospect, I wish I had paid more and had the tires installed that day — but then this article would be much shorter. I instead went online and ordered tires from the original place.
Don’t keep accurate records
After receiving a call five days later that my tires had been delivered to the store, I took the car in at 10 AM the next day to have them installed. After standing in line, I got the runaround about how they couldn’t find my tires and was asked, “did somebody call you?” and “are you sure you placed an order?” I stood there for twenty minutes while they sat on the phone with the Internet division working out their issue. It was clear that systems and departments within the organization weren’t effectively working together and this is a problem for customers. They finally found my order and I went back to work while they installed the new tires.
Don’t answer your phone
At 3 PM — that’s five hours later — I decided it had been enough time and I hadn’t heard from them yet. I then placed no less than half a dozen calls to the store to get a status on my vehicle. Not only did nobody answer, but after several rings, the phone system simply disconnected my call. Regardless of whether someone answers or not, this is called hanging up on customers. Real companies invest in the right staff, and a phone system with queuing ability, and use tools like Fonolo to optimize the customer wait experience so no calls are missed.
Don’t meet or exceed expectations
Realizing no one was going to answer my call, I headed to the store in hopes that, though they were busy, they completed the job in the estimated two to three hours. As my colleague dropped me off, my heart sunk as I saw my car still in the garage. When I inquired about the status, a technician told me it would be another thirty minutes or so. I made it very clear that I had somewhere to be and had already been waiting more than five hours. I ended up standing there for an hour and a half missing valuable work time and having to rearrange my other plans. As a contact center manager, unmet expectations are easily the number one reason for upset customers.
Don’t own up to your poor service and lack of staffing
As I stood there, I watched several prospective customers walk in, see the long wait, and walk out. Routine services like tire rotation and balancing — advertized as conveniently happening “while you shop” — were taking 2-3 hours. Several times the lone guy behind the counter either blamed their poor service on a lack of staffing or it being “unusually busy.”
The problem, having been there multiple days, is that I heard the same excuses both days. Furthermore, I’ve shared my story with a number of friends who’ve had similar experiences. Occasional spikes happen and are difficult to plan for. Routine spikes MUST be planned for or customers quickly learn that they aren’t important. It’s especially sad when the guy at the front counter has to bear the brunt of poor planning by management. Don’t even get me started on the moment when the manager walked through the shop talking about how we were in good hands with what’s-his-face behind the counter.
Don’t respond to customers on social media
I had a bit of time during my hour and a half wait to tweet my displeasure to the company Twitter handle. Not surprisingly, I’m still waiting for a response. Our customers are contacting us on social media. Whether we’re listening or not is the real question.
Don’t honor a guarantee
The last set of tires I purchased had a 65,000 mile warranty and I think they lasted 45,000 miles. I ultimately spoke with a manager to see if they would honor it and let them know that I had my mechanic rotate and balance my tires regularly when they changed my oil. I can respect the fact that they wanted some proof that I was telling the truth which I was not prepared to give.
Frankly, given the long waits it’s not worth the time to have them rotate my tires while I shop. When purchasing tires with a warranty, it’s important to evaluate if the company is actually able to complete the service they promise in a way that’s convenient. Otherwise, that warranty doesn’t mean diddly.
As you can see, I’m NOT a happy customer. Not at all. In fact, I’ve already shared my negative experience with at least ten of my friends and colleagues and now I’m sharing it with whoever chooses to read this post. Put very simply, if you’re involved in the customer experience at your company avoid these behaviors if you want to keep customers. As for me, I’ve learned my lesson. The other tire company has earned my business from here on out. I’ll be sure and let you know how that experience goes.
Director of Customer Experience
Jeremy Watkin is the Director of Customer Experience for FCR. He has more than 15 years of experience as a customer service professional. He is also the co-founder and regular contributor on Communicate Better Blog. Jeremy has been recognized many times for his thought leadership. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn for more awesome customer service and experience insights.