By on February 19, 2014

The best way to demonstrate that your organization is customer-centered is to be easy to do business with. Recently, we experienced a nightmare with a company who has an acceptable tech solution but could not get out of its own way to let the customer purchase it seamlessly.

The Situation. Our office had purchased separate AntiVirus Protection Software subscriptions for three computers, two of which had recently auto-renewed. The well-known corporation (which will not be named) has a feature to auto-renew our subscriptions, unless we create an account and password, then update our preferences to remove the auto-renew feature – making this a task in itself – while marketing it as ‘stress-free’ and warning the machine operators, individually, that they shouldn’t let their subscription expire.

Interestingly enough, the auto-renew feature charges customers full price. However, if these loyal customers go online, they can find the same product subscription at a fraction of the price.

The Solution. A manager in our office explained our situation to Sonia with the supplier’s Customer Service Department. After the third attempt, Sonia understood and agreed to credit $53.99 each for the two current AntiVirus Plus subscriptions that had auto-renewed. We then purchased the All Access subscription for $53.99, which covers all three computers and carries the maximum amount of security, including protection for our mobile devices.

Sonia proceeded to tell our manager that she had to un-install all previous versions of the software on all our machines, then download the new software on each individual machine. In order to ensure this would happen, she promised to transfer our employee to someone in technical support to guide her through the process

Our manager waited on hold for some time, after receiving a Service Request #. After about 10 minutes on hold, another customer service representative came on the line and proceeded to tell her how to download the software (while on hold, she had already downloaded the software online and had installed it – during which the prompts confirmed that the new software would over-ride any previously installed software – hence no need to un-install).

She explained that while on hold she had already performed the installation with no problems. They were slightly confused, but gave her another SR# so she could refer to this new number if there were any issues.

The Aftershock. All computers have been updated, but there is more to the story. Since the consolidation of our subscriptions, we have received four notifications that our previous subscriptions (all cancelled, of course) are about to expire. These notices warn that our ‘time is running out!’ and they urge us to purchase the basic software protection for the same price as the multi-machine, maximum protection. The lesson here is that organizations with functional siloes don’t deliver results very well from the customer’s perspective.

Isn’t it ironic that a company that wants to be trusted to prevent problems for customers (i.e., virus attacks) cannot have a system in place to correct its internal problems with customer-facing transactions? The effort customers have to exert to purchase a service is directly proportional to their feeling that the supplier doesn’t care about them.

Years ago, Tom Peters (In Search of Excellence) described the perception that an airline passenger has about the quality of engine maintenance on the aircraft when the company cannot clean a coffee stain off of its seat-back tray tables. Every interaction with customers leaves an impression of a supplier’s competence and impacts the willingness of its customers to trust that company. The real solution is not to consume hours of employee resources and hours of customers’ efforts to resolve each complaint. This approach is reactive and inefficient. It ignores the multitude of other customers encountering similar problems who will never purchase from you again.

A better alternative would be to anticipate these problems and eliminate them in advance. Empower employees to challenge and change current processes and rules on the basis that they will be a source of customer complaints in the future. Prevention is always better than repairing problems. In the long run, ROI improves dramatically because the problems will not occur in the first place and customers will remain loyal.  Everyone benefits when problems are handled proactively.


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