Archives For call center

Compressor Aftermath

January 24, 2012 — Leave a comment

Two posts ago I was writing about some customer service issues I had with Sears.  This topic deserves one more post to bring to it to closure!  While out on my planning trip this past week, my son brought this compressor to a friend’s house.  It turns out that a capacitor used to start the motor had a cracked housing.  My friend was able to repair the housing without purchasing any additional parts, and I am back in business for 0$.  That’s right, my 230 something dollar quote from sears was fixed by a friend without replacing to motor, and without replacing the capacitor (if you read the post, you recall that Sears simply left me a message saying “My motor had to be replaced for $235).

The problem here is simple; the technician is programmed to replace parts regardless of whether they actually need replacing, and when a part is no longer made with their brand on it, they are not programmed to advise…We are all in business to make money, but when a fix can be made with a $2 part from Radio Shak (or simply repaired with glue, etc.) the value the consultant brings is in their advice not to spend more money.  Customer loyalty depends on the customer feeling like they can really trust the person advising, and when the advice is easily challenged and the fee reduced by orders of magnitude, somehow the customer is left feeling less than confident in the service they are receiving.

Whatever position you are in, study and equip yourself to give the best answers, even if it reduces the size of your initial sale.  In the long run, it will pay off.  What are the chances of me recommending you head to the Sears Services Center (as the customer sat. form reads 0 – 10…hmmm).

© 2012, David Stelzl


How do you get people to attend your next marketing event?

Recruiting attendees for your next marketing event may not be as simple as it looks. The tendency here is to assume that you know how to do this, and when everyone seems too busy to get involved, to assume that a call center is a great alternative.  The problem is, I have yet to see this work.  Since event attendees really need to be management level, and if possible, senior level – asset owners, there is more selling required here than might be obvious.  A track record from past events suddenly becomes irrelevant when you look back and realize, most of your events have been sold out to IT and other non-asset owners.

In a recent event, where the invitation process was contracted out, I was told by the manager of the call center, “We are professionals and don’t require any input.”  Wow!  That’s great, so I can stop worrying about attendance, and just show up to speak on the appointed date?  Far from it.  Instead, their response turned into a last minute fire drill, with rooms rented, food ordered, speakers paid for, and only 2 qualified attendees signed up.  With two weeks to go, this solution provider was forced to either cancel and take a loss of the committed expenses, or open the doors to unqualified IT-level attendees.  The lesson here is this; the call center can fill seats, but it takes a higher level of expertise to reach people who can actually buy something.  Our event went forward, with predictable results.  A long list of attendees, high attrition on the day of the event, and very few resulting sales.  Event marketing can be highly effective, but when approached incorrectly, can produce “nothing” at a great cost.

© 2011, David Stelzl

A few weeks ago I wrote about my vaporizer and how we climbed the ladder to win the free replacement…it was exhilarating and yes, I did get many positive comments on the post! Today let’s look at how to lose…and learn from it.

Last night I nearly had a heart attack when I realized that I had booked my flights to CA using a PM flight rather than the AM flight I was hoping to take.  Here I am just a few days from leaving and I discover that weeks ago I made this mistake, and I am taking my wife who is flying on points.  What are the chances they have a point seat open and will move me without charging me?  Zero.  But, we can always negotiate, so I called customer service.

The call started out much better than I had expected.  The person serving me was actually willing to change the tickets for free, but only if a point seat were available.  Of course, there were none.  At this point I new I had to negotiate.  There must be a way to override the policy – there always is;  however, knowing this poisoned my approach.   I learned at this point in the conversation that I was already speaking with the shift supervisor, and she was informing me not only that she could not do it, but that is was impossible.

Now, you and I both know, nothing like this is actually impossible.  Certainly the CEO could make this change, and probably someone who reports to him, and likely someone reporting to them – how far down can we go with this (pretty far)?  So instead of escalating as I’ve encouraged in past calls, I simply asked her how high up would we need to go to get this changed.  Instead of agreeing with her (agreeing that she has no power to make this change), and sympathizing with her, I in a sense, challenged her.  She sort of laughed at this point, but I didn’t take the hint, as she insisted that it was in fact, impossible.  At this point, feeling proud about my position (another mistake in negotiating), I politely pointed out that I had had a similar situation a year ago and proceeded to boast that I had actually had this type of thing resolved once before when no point-seats were open, therefore it can be done.  Big mistake.

She’s not on commission, and she also knows that I don’t really have a choice because there is only one carrier based in my city and there is no way I am flying by connection every week.  So at this point she gets sarcastic with me.  This is terrible customer service behavior, but I’ve asked for it.  I realized I had lost and said goodbye in the friendliest voice I could muster.

THE REST OF THE STORY…part of the problem is, I knew I had a way to escalate outside the system, but I should not have had to  play this card.  My wife was able to make a call to a senior executive and get this resolved in minutes.  She made a call to a friend, who contacted her husband, who then graciously made the change, no questions asked, reinforcing my original belief, that there really is a way; its just a matter of finding that person.  What did I learn here?

1. Pride leads to a fall.  No matter how confident you are that you’ll win (and you just about always can), you can’t show it.  People react to pride, and it always leads to contention.  Don’t do it.  Meekness is the ability to restrain your power or irritation – this is the proper way to approach the negotiating table.

2. The person you are dealing with probably can’t change the policy, so it’s important to agree with them  They also can’t escalate every call up to their manager or lead you to believe they can. If they did, they would get fired. So work with them and make them feel good about the work they are doing.  Too many people yell at customer service people (which I did not do), and this never works, so get over it.

3. The servant wins here.  The better you make the agent feel, the more likely they are to help you when you begin the escalation process.  So help them help you.  If they push back, continue to press forward with a genuinely positive attitude.  If you have one in a hundred call center people on the phone, it is better to simply thank them and hang up,  then call back – you’ll get another person who might be more willing to help.  But don’t burn the bridge with any of these people as the word might spread.

4. No matter how hard they insist,  “It can’t be done!” it just about always can.  Be patient and work the system.  Most of the time you don’t have an executive contact to call, so don’t blow your chances in the call center.  I got lucky on this one.  In fact it was my wife who won – I lost.

5. Finally, when you do win, don’t flaunt it.  You have your reward.  Express extreme gratefulness to the person who solves your problem, and if there is a way to get word to their management on what a great job they did, do it.  Even if it’s an email back to that person that can be passed along.  You never know what is going on with that person’s job, so help them as much as you can to be recognized for doing what no other person seemed to be able to to do.

6. An finally, as I am now doing, learn from your mistakes and don’t repeat them.  In fact, learn from my mistake, and you’ll avoid the feeling of defeat.

© 2011, David Stelzl

How do you win – you need a strategy.

Yesterday I called customer service to have two warm-steam vaporizers replaced.  This is the 3rd or 4th time these units have had to be replaced over the past seven years – but they are lifetime warranty.  The problem is, they require a $25 dollar fee (each) to return them, plus it costs $10/each to ship them.  I’ve never paid the $25 fee, however they put us to the test yesterday.

I use these opportunities to teach my children how to negotiate, so earlier this week I had one of my daughters place the call.  They started asking all kinds of questions and insisting we were doing something wrong.  She wasn’t getting anywhere.  In the past, this group has been easy to deal with, but something has changed and it didn’t look like we were going to get our units replaced for free this time.   So how did we win?

The key to winning with this type of call is understanding how to escalate the call.  Getting angry never works – after all, they are not obligated to give me anything.  The call center people really have nothing to lose, and certainly no liability.  Gathering my kids around the speaker phone, I said, “Let’s see if we can win this one.”

I made the call, getting the tier one person on the phone.  She insisted on going through a set of  diagnostic questions, and in the end determined that we could in fact send them back, but the $25 dollar fee was firm.  I asked her if she was able to wave that and she said, “No.”  I understand that – her company has apparently not given her authority to take action, so I agreed with her and asked to speak with her direct supervisor.

Tom came on the line next.  He was also hardened..not very friendly.  His tact was to verify if this was actually a warranty issue.  In his opinion it was not.  I asked him if he could do it any way, and he said, “The Policy is…” and basically said, no.  Again, I agreed with him, understanding that he is not authorized to change the policy, but perhaps he could forward me to his manager, which he did.  I politely thanked him for his time.

Carlos was next.  he was genuinely polite, and seemed eager to help.  I explained my situation, which was well documented in his system.  I explained that the shipping fee for this type of item was high, and that the $25/each fee was out of my reach.  I asked if we could wave the fee.  Without question, Carlos said, “No problem, that is what we are here for.”  He is sending me a shipping label, sending me two new units, and will have my old units analyzed in order to report back why they are not working.

The outcome was predictable.  I was able to make this call on the speaker phone in front of my kids as a demonstration because I knew we would win this.  Staying calm, agreeing along the way once it is clear that the person I am dealing with is unable to make a change, and escalating each time, is the key.  This is great practice for selling.  Use these situations to practice dealing with difficult people and negotiations, and apply this to your selling efforts.

© 2011, David Stelzl