Impact Learning Systems


Is Your Company a Customer Sieve? Vasudha Deming

Customer Sieve crop1 Is Your Company a Customer Sieve?As a con­sul­tant, I fre­quently have dis­cus­sions with clients about the del­i­cate bal­ance required to keep cur­rent cus­tomers happy and loyal while also uti­liz­ing the nec­es­sary resources to woo and win new customers.

This issue is high­lighted in a great arti­cle by James Surowiecki in The New Yorker.The entire arti­cle can be found here, but the excerpt that really got my atten­tion is this one:

The real prob­lem may be that com­pa­nies have a rov­ing eye: they’re always more inter­ested in the cus­tomers they don’t have. So they pour money into sales and mar­ket­ing to lure new cus­tomers while giv­ing their exist­ing ones short shrift, in an effort to min­i­mize costs and max­i­mize rev­enue.… Eco­nom­i­cally, this makes lit­tle sense; it’s more expen­sive to acquire a new cus­tomer than to hold on to an old one, and, these days, annoyed cus­tomers are quick to take their busi­ness else­where. But, because most com­pa­nies are set up to focus on the first sale rather than on all the ones that might fol­low, they end up devot­ing all their ener­gies to court­ing us, promis­ing won­der­ful prod­ucts and excel­lent ser­vice. Then, once they’ve got us, their atten­tion wanders.

You know the story: You give your trust, money, and loy­alty to a com­pany only to have them tram­ple on your needs as they beat a path to any poten­tial new cus­tomers that might be lurk­ing nearby. Here’s one of my more memorable—and painful—experiences …

I was once the client of an out­source call cen­ter. Dur­ing the sev­eral weeks I spent on site I fre­quently worked on the call floor, mon­i­tor­ing and coach­ing the agents. Through­out these weeks, we (my com­pany) had sig­nif­i­cant dif­fi­cul­ties with the man­age­ment team. Long story short: my orga­ni­za­tion was not receiv­ing the resources, atten­tion, and results we’d been promised when sign­ing the con­tract with the call center.

So imag­ine my cha­grin when one day a man­ager comes fly­ing onto the call floor, hur­riedly instruct­ing the agents to look and sound pro­fes­sional: Sit up straight! Watch your tone of voice! Smile! Why this urgent call for deco­rum? As the man­ager fran­ti­cally advised the agents, “a prospec­tive client is com­ing in to check out our facility.”

I—a cur­rent client des­per­ate to feel val­ued and respected by the vendor—was stand­ing right there! At the time, I laughed. At the con­clu­sion of the con­tract, I took my busi­ness elsewhere.

You prob­a­bly have sim­i­lar tales of woe from your own expe­ri­ences as a cus­tomer. Care to share? More impor­tantly, what solu­tions do you propose?

Vasudha leads the Per­for­mance Solu­tions Team at Impact Learn­ing Sys­tems, reg­u­larly work­ing with lead­ing com­pa­nies to improve per­for­mance of their customer-facing ser­vice, sup­port, and sales teams. She is a lead devel­oper of Impact's suite of train­ing courses and has authored four books, includ­ing the pop­u­lar Big Book of Cus­tomer Ser­vice Train­ing Games, all pub­lished by McGraw-Hill.
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Vasudha Deming
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  • The Evo­lu­tion of Call Cen­tres #14 | Blog | NewVoiceMedia

    […] really like this post on why main­tain­ing cus­tomers is often more impor­tant than chas­ing new ones. Com­plete with a real life exam­ple and link­ing to ames Surowiecki’s […]

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