Archives For Customer Service

bcbsDo Your Clients Love You Or Hate You?

Here’s How Blue Cross Blue Shield Got Me to Leave Them…

Put your clients on hold for 4.5 hours, with a deadline so that they can’t hang up. Don’t provide any sort of automated system to schedule a call back. And make sure there is no other way to get what you need without a call.  I just did that this morning.  But let me back up…

In December I received a friendly letter from my Health Insurance Provider – BCBS of North Carolina… letting me know that my policy would no longer be offered in the county I live it.  That was puzzling to me, but it is what it is.

I then received another letter telling me my premium would be double with the new plan they were putting me on – all part of the “Affordable” Healthcare Act.  $1 HC Book Ad

So this morning I was forced to hang on the phone listening to their music and a hold message telling me they were to busy to talk to me…knowing that in just a few days my bank account would be syphoned off to a new plan that I did not order.

Over the course of 4.5 hours I did have a few contacts with different people.  People who could not help me, but who would be happy to transfer me to another hour-long queue. The first person I spoke with actually told me I was not in the system and no longer had any plan, and not to worry about the automatic bank draft.  The second person said, “That’s not right, but I can’t help you…hold please.”

Finally I reached the right person…who told me that actually I did have a plan, and that my annual rate would be grandfathered in at a similar rate to the old one…in other words, the letters I had received, and all the research I did in December to find a new plan, could have been avoided.  But of course, I had done all of that with the information I had, and was ready to quick BCBS…After a 4.5 hour wait, it’s hard to feel good about staying.

What a disaster…Are there other industries out there that can operate like this and still be in business?  If there are, yours in not one of them…what are you doing to make sure people on are getting their answers quickly?

© 2016, David Stelzl



blackfridayBlack Friday, Cyber Monday – How Are You Treating Your Best Clients?

It’s the Christmas Season! Over the past few years I’ve avoided the lines by doing my shopping online. Last year my wife and I went to the mountains for the weekend, stayed in a cozy hotel in a small town, and did our shopping in our PJs – Online.  It was great.

This year, due to travel schedules and a super busy quarter, we opted to do our shopping at Starbucks while sipping Lattes. The kids convinced me to go on Cyber Monday, thinking that might make the dollars stretch – more gifts for the same price!  Not so…it turns out.

Amazon – Very Disappointing

I’m a prime member on Amazon. It’s great. Movies, 2 day shipping, music – it’s all included. And with 9 people in our family, and most of us running some sort of business, we buy a lot of stuff online. So, of course I headed to the Amazon website.  Everything is on sale. After all, it’s Cyber Monday.

However, the truth is, everything was about 20% more expensive!

My kids, knowing I would be shopping on Amazon, handed us Christmas lists with links from Amazon (high-tech Christmas shopping!) They even noted the price of the item they were considering…Boy were we surprised to find that just about every price cited on the list was 20% less than the new “Cyber Monday Price”.

It would be fine if Amazon advertised a price increase – but they didn’t. I’m sure something on Amazon was on sale. Maybe the paper towels, or toilet cleaning brushes. None of that showed up on my kid’s lists.

I’m sure we’ll continue to buy from Amazon – it’s easy, quick, and you can’t beat 2 day shipping. But it’s a shame when you have to micro manage your suppliers, watching for dishonest business practices.  Let’s agree that our clients are worth a lot more to us than that, and no matter how big we get, we’ll always treat our customers like we appreciate them.

© David Stelzl

PS. If you’re looking for a great gift for your spouse or kids, you know they’ll want to read my latest book, The House & The Cloud, 2nd Edition! You can save money right now and get it for $1.00! No shipping, and it’s not even Cyber Monday.

$1 HC Book Ad






appleHow Quickly Are You Responding to Your Customer’s Needs…

Time is important. The way you view your customer’s time just might be the most important part of your offering. Three recent interactions over the past week underscore just how important this is.

Apple Has Great Support

I mentioned in a post the other day that my daughter had been contacted online by a fraudster offering support. She called me in before paying the fraudulent charge, but I still went to Apple to make sure we were doing the right thing.  Apple was easy to contact. My daughter’s system is not new. In fact, it’t time to upgrade. But contacting support was easy, fast, and free regardless of the date I made the purchase. Using the online chat software I had my answers in less than 5 minutes, and the instructions on what to do were easy to follow.

American Airlines Calls You Back

My airline travel was down last year due to more online programs – so I lost my chairman status (USAirways). As a chairman member I always got immediate service.  Now that I no longer have the privilege, I have to wait in line like everyone else when calling in with a problem or question.  Last week was my first call into the now merged AA and USAirways company.  While the wait time was over 15 minutes, the automated system did take my cell number and call me back.  This is a great service for support organizations that don’t have to give immediate assistance. Sure enough, about 30 minutes after I placed the call they called back. I was connected immediately without being tied to the phone listening to hold music and marketing announcements. MMS Blog Ad

Quickbooks Makes You Wait

On the other hand, I had a Quickbooks App issue this morning. My first contact was with a woman who didn’t really speak English. Make sure your people speak the language of the people you support. I’m okay with a slight accent – we get that between northern and southern US. Not a problem.  But this was “Broken Engrish”, and very hard to understand.

She must have asked me 3 or 4 times which version I was using. For some reason she didn’t understand me either. When we finally agreed that I was on a Mac using the App, she told me I needed to talk with the online support team. Before placing me on hold she informed me that Quickbooks does not allow the support team to call out.  So waiting was the only option.

18 minutes later I am on the phone with online support. When I told him I had a Mac with an App, he simply said, “You have to uninstall it and reinstall it. We don’t support the App.” When I complained that the first person should have told me that, he insisted that he had told her to tell me that on the phone. I’m sure he did, but for some reason she did not relay the message. He apologized for wasting half an hour of my day and we hung up.

Computer support is critical. Most of us spend the entire day doing something on a computer. If you’re in the managed services business your clients should be support contracts, not T&M, and the support should be nearly instantaneous.  If you support the security side of your client’s business (which is a must these days) your response time is even more important.  The good news is, fast, quality support is worth paying for when you make money using a computer.

© 2015, David Stelzl

How to Win the Negotiation

Here’s a great exercise – a Lesson on Winning

Will I win the negotiation? I wrote an entire chapter on this in my most recent book, From Vendor to Adviser. I don’t know if I’ll win this one, but I’m still hopeful.

Most of us negotiate everyday, but most of the people I work with have little experience in winning. I hear people getting angry, upset, frustrated, etc. None of these are winning tactics.

This morning I am in my weekly Monday Morning Kickoff Meeting. I start the week, every week, just like this. I look at metrics, my business plan, top accounts, upcoming events, and my Quarterly goals.  I’m planning for my week.

Part of my Monday ritual is to check over my banking transactions, reconciling and looking for anything out of the ordinary. I took my Mastery Group to the Chinese Restaurant last weekend during a business planning and strategy weekend and they double charged me…but the manager also informed me of the mistake right after dinner asking me to make sure he didn’t double charge.  So I know that will get cleared up as soon as my office manager puts a call into them.

That’s When Things Fell Apart

But then there’s this service charge on my bank account that should not be there. By having a business account linked to a Merchant account at my bank, that charge should not be there.  So I called the bank, and that’s where my morning started going downhill.  I quickly reminded myself, this is a negotiation – don’t get upset, work the process.

My 19 year old son is right beside me working on his business. But I can tell he’s listening in by the smirk on his face. He’s wondering if his dad will win this one…

The bank people were very nice. I quickly got them to agree that they told me I would not have this service charge. But it turns out the person who sold me this package was wrong. What’s the solution? The bank will credit my account, make a note on the account, and then send me over to Bank of America Merchant Services to cancel that service.

It is amazing how friendly the Bank of America rep is compared to Bank of America Merchant Services Gal. She’s a terrorist of some kind I think. It’s not her fault and she can’t do a thing for me – but she has the attitude like “I’m in control here.”  There’s a $500 fee to cancel the merchant services agreement, or $100/yr fee to keep it and not use it.  Well $100 won’t break the bank, but the principle here is important. I really want to cancel at this point – and I want the fee waved. So what do I do.

Practice This – Negotiation and Moving Up.

I’ve done this many times – when I do it without making a mistake, I usually win. But in this case, it looks like it might be a hard one.  The jury is still out – but here’s where we are.

1. The first woman on the line, whose name I forget, just kept repeating the policy. My first mistake was not writing down her name. You always want to know who said what along the way.  About 10 minutes into this volley, I remembered to ask her if she had the authority to wave the fee. She did not. As soon as I asked that question it was easy.  I apologized for wasting her time and asked for her supervisor. There’s no reason to continue talking to her.

2. Bonnie was next on the line. She is the Account Specialist over there at Bank of America Merchant Services. I was told by the first woman that if anyone could wave the fee, it would be Bonnie. I tried to review the case with her, but she quickly said she could not wave the fee but could discount it by 50%. That might be okay for some, but I don’t consider it a win. After all, my contract ends in two years so why not just pay the $99 annual fee for two years and be done with it. This time, rather than debating the issue, I simply asked her for her supervisor.

3. After about 10 minutes, Jessie, the supervisor was on the line.  She also offered the $250, but didn’t seem to understand my problem. Since Merchant Services is not actually Bank of America, they don’t have to cooperate. It’s really BOA’s fault, but only Merchant Services can release me from the contract. At this point I clarified with her – “Do you have the authority to wave this fee.” She simply said no. At this point I simply apologized for wasting her time and asked for her supervisor…Dale.

4. I am now waiting for Dale to call back…it’s a 24 to 48 hour process….Talk about real time customer service.  I’m sure Dale is busy since no one in the lower ranks is able to do anything.

At this point I put another call into the bank to explain this whole mess – to see if they can apply some pressure from there side.  They promised to work on it and get back to me by close of business.

There are a couple of things to learn from this mess.

– First, I am still wondering if the “Policy” is written down somewhere. How is it that the bank made this mistake and seemed to not charge me for months, and then suddenly the change…still need to get to the bottom of that one.

– Arguing with customer service reps who are not empowered is a waste of time…but think how much it is costing this organization to escalate these issues up the ladder. Companies really should empower people to make a decision.  Maybe not the first level – she should have offered the 50% deal.  But I am 4 levels up now…Even US Airways was easier to deal with when I had a seat issue a few years back.

– Use these opportunities to build your endurance, make a good case, not get angry, and be willing to keep going higher. It’s great practice.

I’ll let you know what happens…in the mean time, I am not processing credit cards through Bank of America Merchant Services.  I have two other providers who are both easier to deal with.  If you have an opportunity to choose Bank of American Merchant Services, think again. There’s someone out there who is more customer friendly than they are.


© 2014, David Stelzl

P.S. I wonder if these people monitor social media.

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customersupportDifferentiate Your Commodity Products w/ Amazing Customer Service

Just about everything you sell is a commodity – It’s your Intellectual Capital and Customer Service that will set you apart.

Google Has Great Support!

In my last post I shared a few words on CRM and why I made the move to Infusionsoft. There’s a lot here and I’ve been through a number of training classes, and have a personal coach working through the final steps of conversion.

Part of my conversion involved moving to gmail – and Google Apps…

Yesterday I had the opportunity to contact customer support while connecting my HP Printer to Scan to Email with Google. My experience was exceptional…some things to consider:

1. Simple menus – when I call Time Warner Cable the menu tree goes on forever and the hold times are enormous. In fact, many times I have to leave a message and they call me back. If I’m on the phone when they call, it’s my tough luck. Not with Google; two menu items and a pin number provided to me through my admin console and I’m speaking to someone live.

2. They use Join.Me to access my computer – with permission of course.  This gets them right to the problem. During this migration I’ve called Google numerous times and each time they’ve solved the problem quickly by looking at my screen and walking me through the process.

3. Taking responsibility – even when it might not be their issue. My issue yesterday could easily be an HP issue, not Google.  But the Google support person never even mentioned pushing me to HP. He did ask if I had HP support – generally that costs a fortune. As soon as he heard that, he pushed on to try several things.  He must have spent 30 minutes with me – never hinting at giving up. How many times have you been online with a support person who insists on giving you meaningless projects to go do and get back to them on? He never did this.

4. In the end, I had a work around, but we did not solve the problem. He agreed to look further into this – and asked me to keep him updated on anything I find. Even after hanging up without a complete solution, I was ready to give him 10 out of 10 points on my customer service rating. He was that good.

In today’s commodity product reseller world, customer service might be the only long lasting differentiator…

© 2014, David Stelzl

P.S. Anyone ever tried calling Microsoft for help?

If you don’t have my Special Report on Turning Prospects into Customers – Get it Right Here! (CLICK).


Another Lesson On Customer Service

We live in an age of customer experience…Mickey and Mooch is an upper end steakhouse in Charlotte, NC.  Their meat is top shelf – in fact, you can request Angus or Prime, depending on how much you want to spend, and the portions are good.  The atmosphere is very nice, and it would appear to be a great place to take your wife or special someone for Dinner.  But here’s why I am never going back…

Total Lack of Attention to the Customer

When I arrived with my wife last night – the maitre d’ was just down right unfriendly.  This is the person who creates the first impression.  Even though I had a reservation and arrived early – before the crowds showed up, they sat me at this little table in the corner.  It turned out that this was not actually our “assigned table,” but asking to be moved was like the old Burger King commercial where they guy tries to order onion rings at McDonald’s – everyone goes into slow motion wondering what to do.

Totally Confused About How to Cook a Steak

Confusing the Customer is a Great Way to Begin

Once seated, it was time to review the menu and order.  We were there to have steak, so the decision was made and we started our order. Our server started out by informing us that our steak would be undercooked, so we should just explain how we want it cooked.  That’s odd…good way to confuse the customer.

How Many Steaks Does It Take To Get It Right?

Twenty minutes or so later our steaks arrived.  We both ordered the top end filet…Our server was confused about who got what steak, but after a short experiment we figured it out.  My wife’s steak was more like a brick than a steak.  It looked like they had left it on the grill about 10 minutes too long.  So we sent it back…with the detailed instructions  – Lightly pink in the middle.  Now I cook steaks all the time.  It’s not that difficult.

My wife’s new steak arrived just as I was finishing up my entire meal.  This time her steak was somewhere in the medium rare category. Bright red, with that sort of gelatine look.  Well, that just wasn’t going to work, so we sent it back again, with the side item so it would be hot when the steak was finally done.

Another 20 minutes went by.  Finally the waiter appeared, explaining that the cook, who is also the owner, overcooked the steak again, and was cooking another steak.  When it arrived, it was full of fat – in fact, it was the wrong kind of steak.  We wanted the prime filet – this was not. Back to the kitchen – we’re about 2 1/2 hours into this meal now, and my wife is really looking forward to eating dinner. My dinner is long gone…

The new steak arrives – it’s cooked just right, however, I can hear my wife crunching on her under-cooked broccoli all the way on my side of the table.  We didn’t bother sending it back.

The Moment of Truth – The Check

When my check arrived, I expected them to offer to credit us for her steak.  They said nothing…so I mentioned to the waiter, “Any quality restaurant would have offered something – free dessert, no meal charge, gift card,…”  He said, “Would you like me to say something to the owner?” Of course I would – or I wouldn’t have brought it up.

He returned with our check – without an update from the owner/manager.  So I asked, “What happened?”  He simply said, “Mickey doesn’t really care.”

If you live in Charlotte, do yourself a favor – skip Mickey and Mooch and head over to Sullivan’s, Capital Grill, Ruth Chris…even The Long Horn does a better job all around.

While this has nothing to do with technology – it has a lot to do with repeat clients.  A simple lesson in customer service.  And, if Mickey and Mooch can’t figure out the customer service thing – they might benefit from a cook that knows how to cook a steak.

© 2014, David Stelzl

P.S. I know, this isn’t a Pizza Post…

This is my third post on Successful Business Planning.  In the first post I encouraged you to start planning now for 2014. In the second I talked about making your plan usable.  Today I want to encourage you to build a brand promise.

This year I’ve spent about 80 nights in Marriott Hotels (plus a few others).  In fact, I’m in one right now!  This one happens to be a Fairfield – as I am in a remote area.  As I was working on a few things this afternoon, a small card left by Christy, my Guest Room Attendant, caught my eye…

It’s the Marriott Brand Promise.

It reads:

We Promise to  Always…

  • Make you feel welcome
  • Give you a room that’s clean, fresh and reflects the highest quality standards
  • Respond promptly to any need that you might have
  • Give you the service that will make you want to return

And, Sure enough, that has been my experience this year.  It’s Marriott’s brand promise.  And when I have had an issue, Marriott has been responsive…

As someone who travels weekly, I can tell you that lowest price, free cookies, and remote control curtains, all come way down the list for me – but when I need something, like my room cleaned at a certain time, a last minute room, or something taken care of right away, I really want my hotel of choice to act quickly.

I also want friendly people working behind the desk, answering questions, making recommendations on food and transportation, and going out of their way to make sure I get what I need, and make it to bed on time.

At Ingles last week, I noticed a sign that said – 200% Guarantee.  Actually it was one of my kids that brought it to my attention.  Part of our homeschool curriculum is watching out for good marketing.  It went on to say – if the produce isn’t fresh, not only will be refund your money…we’ll replace the item.  This too is a brand promise – built to appeal to the people who shop for the family.

What is your brand promise?

And does it actually mean something to your target buyer?  The people I refer to as Your People Group.

Make it a part of your business plan.  Put some thought into it…what would actually matter to the people group your message is targeting?  This just might be the big differentiator you are looking for.

© 2013, David Stelzl