dreamstime_xl_21158278While many companies like to combine stellar customer service with a subtle up-sell to grow their sales, there’s a fine line between an up-sell and a turn-off. Here’s a great example of what not to do.

I had 10 minutes to squeeze in a quick call. I rang my phone provider, asked my question, and got an answer. Easy-and-done! What happened next damaged the customer relationship and left me open to switching providers.  Could this be happening to your customers?

“Today is my birthday, so I want to do something nice for you,” the service rep said. He offered to take $5 off my monthly phone bill because I’m a good customer who also uses their internet and TV services.  Nice surprise!

“Thank you! And Happy Birthday,” I said.

“You’re welcome!” he said. “Since it’s my birthday I’m going to do even more for you.”

He offered to give me a $25 gift card if I purchased a service protection plan.

“It will work out to be only $1 a month,” he said.

I didn’t feel a need for the protection plan, but the value seemed to deem a few minutes of my time to hear him out.  He glossed over the details, focused heavy on the benefits and pushed me to agree.

Bending the Truth Damages Trust

I almost bit, but something wasn’t adding up. I insisted on confirming the details and discovered that it would cost me $97 a year.  He explained he was factoring in the $5 monthly phone savings, and gift card, and emphasized that I could cancel anytime.

“I appreciate the $5 off my phone bill, but I don’t want the service protection program,” I said.

“You can only have the $5 monthly savings on your phone if you take the service protection plan,” he said.

Was he serious? I was under the impression that one had nothing to do with the other. When I questioned him, his reply was, “This is a good offer. It’s my birthday today and I really want to make you happy.”

Inauthentic Communication Kills Connection

He was milking the birthday thing. Mentioning it three times smacked of manipulation – an inauthentic tactic to make his customers more agreeable.

I noticed the time. My quick call had turned into a 20-minute time suck.

“You wasted my time with a bait and switch and turned me into a very unhappy customer,” I said.

Before the call, I was a long-time loyal customer of 18 years.  Now, I’m left wondering – is the company’s leadership supporting this smarmy approach to up-selling? Could this be a single service provider’s ineffective approach? Either way, leadership is accountable for the results. And the result is they’ve lost my trust and respect. Can they earn it back? Perhaps. Though, once lost, trust is not easily restored. Customers don’t always stick around to give you the chance.

What can you do to keep inauthentic communication from killing customer loyalty?

Bring this post to your next leadership meeting to discuss.

When it comes to communicating with customers:

  • What is the company doing well?
  • How might you be encouraging (or being blind to) tactics that ultimately damage customer trust?
  • What processes are in place (or need to be added) to ensure quality communication?

When you create ongoing cycles to evaluate, improve, and measure the customer experience at each point of contact, you’ll also create marked improvement in service quality.

Want help with training and consulting to bring out the best in every customer, even Gladys? Contact us today.

Marilyn Suttle is a customer experience expert, international speaker, and coauthor of the bestselling book, Who’s Your Gladys? How to Turn Even the Most Difficult Customer into Your Biggest Fan  and Taming Gladys! The Busy Leader’s Guide to Creating Fierce Customer Loyalty. Marilyn delivers customer service and communication keynotes and workshops to help her audiences create strong, productive relationships in every area of life. For more information, email: marilyn@marilynsuttle.com 


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