Customer Service: The Customer Is Always…Wrong?

Yesterday, an item appeared on CNET’s “Crave�? site about Sprint breaking up with customers.  I was totally struck by the article when I saw it and spent some time digging into it.

It seems Sprint decided to shed customers who they felt were overusing their customer service lines.  The letter was sent in late June to a supposedly small number of Sprint customers, citing too many phone calls as the reason for terminating their service. 

On the surface, anyone who has been on the receiving end of customer service calls can understand Sprint’s issue.  Some customers can be so “high maintenance�? that it is not profitable to keep them.  Angry customers can occasionally be verbally abusive as well.  Although the old saw “The customer is always right�? applies in most cases, and one is far better off dealing with the issue in a way favorable to the customer and moving on, there is no reason anyone should have to deal with extremes of abusive language or verbal threats.

Digging below the surface, however, I question Sprint’s wisdom in taking this action.  First, Sprint hasn’t been doing that well, so why would they deliberately shed much needed customers?  The article I read mentioned their high “churn�? rate, higher than the competition’s.  It’s always tougher to get new customers than get repeat business from happy current customers, so why rock a leaky boat?

Second, I question how Sprint counted the calls.  As I searched the internet, read blogs, and followed response threads, I saw lots of comments about bad customer experiences when calling Sprint.  We’ve all had at least one instance of waiting on hold for customer service, any customer service – not just Sprint’s, and then having the phone system hang up without ever reaching a live human being.  Assuming you have a real issue, what do you do?  You call back!  The call counter ticks.  What if you reach a customer service rep and he/she can’t handle the issue, so they forward you to someone else?  I’ve talked to as many as half a dozen people before getting issues resolved.  Does Sprint count these as individual calls?  The call counter spins………

Third, what if the volume of service calls comes as the result of recurring, possibly systemic problems?  Some bloggers out there were calling Sprint monthly to deal with constant billing problems!  Hardly seems fair to then drop the service for too many calls.  But then, as my husband frequently reminds me, “Fair is a carnival with rides.�?

Clearly, there are many possible causes for the large volume of customer service calls, coming from both Sprint and its customers.  However, it certainly seems counterproductive for a troubled business to deliberately cause a flap over its own customer service!  Did they think the word wouldn’t spread?

Another product of my web research on this subject today was an article I found on the MSN Money site – “The Customer Service Hall of Shame�? – by Christopher Oster.  Sprint topped his list.  Now, how is such a distinction likely to appear to employees, customers, prospects and investors? 

It doesn’t look good. 

What do you think?

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12 Steps to Take Your Company to the Next Level – Part 2

Step 1: Business Structure and Governance
There are several viable forms of business entities, each with pros and cons relating to personal liability, income tax, payroll tax, limits on the number of owners, and taxation on profit distributions. Your business can be a sole proprietorship, a partnership, a corporation (S or C), or a limited liability company (LLC). You may start out with one structure and find it appropriate to switch to another during the life of a company. The point is to analyze and understand the differences and make an active, rather than passive, choice based on your situation and requirements.

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12 Steps That Will Take Your Company to the Next Level – Part One

Business is both exciting and dynamic. The variety is endless. Products and services are constantly expanding, as are the ways they are offered to the public. New industries emerge regularly, with attendant new opportunities. And the personalities of the diverse businesses out there reflect the equally diverse personalities of their many owners.

We’ve had the opportunity and the pleasure to work with literally hundreds of companies over the years and the variety keeps us entertained, challenged, and constantly learning. However, there are threads of operational consistency woven through nearly all companies. In our experience, the quality of these “threads,�?the basic operational foundation of a business, will make, or break, the best of companies.
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Welcome to our blog, Business In Washington!

At Next Step Solutions, Inc., we are business operations consultants focused on small- to medium-sized companies. We are passionate about business and strive to help businesses grow, thrive, and make more money. Our clients are entrepreneurs who have built businesses with their hard work and passion, but who have been unable to realize their full growth potential. We help them overcome the internal obstacles holding them back and make the transition from an informal operation with the founder involved in everything to an organization with formal structures, professional management and a CEO leader who is free to focus on a vision for future growth.

When we begin working with a client, we start by learning as much as possible about their company, how it operates, its successes, and more importantly, its challenges. Working closely with the business owner, we perform an assessment of the business as it stands currently. Over time, we have found that there are 12 key areas of business operations that require attention and action, and this has become what we call our 12 Steps to Business Operational Success. This is the basis of our initial assessment. We can then rank the steps in priority order for the specific client and tailor our services to address his/her primary needs.

We work with our clients face to face, by phone and via email. A lot can be accomplished with the assistance of 21st century technology, but it can never totally replace the value of being onsite with our clients. Built into our service packages is a regular onsite status meeting which allows us not only to assess a client’s progress, but to observe and take the pulse of the business. This allows us to spot a potential issue our client may not see and address it before it becomes a real problem.

Our principals have extensive cross-industry business experience, spanning 2-3 decades in time and all types and sizes of companies. We offer our expertise to our clients in a number of ways, packaged to maximize the value they receive. Several consulting programs are available for a monthly fee, each including a specific set of services. Additional services are available as needed on an hourly basis.

Looking for a way to offer our expertise at a lower price point for very small businesses, we developed a version of our 12 Step program which can be offered over the telephone, making most efficient use of both time and money, scarce commodities for business small business owners. The 12 Steps are offered as individual teleseminars or in a unique tele-forum, which combines group training and one-on-one consulting.

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