How to lose a potential customer (in one easy step)!

Last week I was conducting a price benchmarking exercise for a client of mine which involved ringing around a lot of local competitors offering the same service as them. The idea was to plot where my client was effectively positioned in relation to the marketplace as compared to 12 months ago.

Although, undoubtedly, this was a very useful exercise, I believe more value was gained by the customer service shown to me on the phone in dealing with my enquiry.

We are talking about a massive scale of customer experience here – from the companies who dealt with my enquiry in an efficient and friendly manner, to those who didn’t seem to care less and to the one company who positively turned me off ever giving them my business in the future.  This blog details how to lose a potential customer, in one easy step.

The sector in question is a difficult one to price benchmark as there are many different variable factors in play – so during the calls I had a lot of questions to ask.

Out of the 15 companies in question I would say only 7 of these dealt with my call with a quality of service I would expect.  Let’s face it – I was a potential new client for them, in an industry where the lifetime value of my custom could be huge.

I was expecting all of the companies to be open and honest (telling me all costs that would be incurred) and taking an interest in me and what I wanted out of the service that they were offering.

So immediately out of my 15 potential suppliers, over 50% had eliminated themselves straight away.  Why?  What did they do wrong?

  • 2 companies never even answered the phone
  • 2 companies took my details and told me someone would get straight back to me (they didn’t).  One of which took three attempts.
  • 1 company said they couldn’t fulfil my requirements at the moment (and never asked whether I want to be kept informed if they could in the future)
  • 1 company asked me nothing about my business and just said they would email me through the prices (although was pleasant enough on the phone)
  • 1 company didn’t have all the information I needed (sounded like they were making it up as they went along).
  • And worst of all was the dreaded “Call Centre” – which provided a customer experience from HELL!

Unsurprising, the company with the call centre was the biggest supplier of this service in the UK and I would like to just recount my experience so that you can understand, why I, as a potential new client, got driven to the depths of despair!!  Below is a series of events that happened on this call – I kid you not, this is exactly how it happened….

I dial the number of the local supplier.

Company X: “Hello (insert company name), could you just hold please?”

On hold for 2-3 minutes.  (I have not spoken a word yet).

Company X: “Sorry about that, how can I help you?”

Me: “I am looking for some prices for (insert service)”

Company X: “OK I am just going to put you on hold again”

On hold for 2-3 minutes.

Company X: “Sorry about that.  Yes the prices for a days hire of (insert service) would be….”

Me: “No sorry, I don’t want to hire for a day I want a permanent one…”

Company X: “Oh sorry for the confusion.  I can’t give you a price for that I can only give you a price for a day hire.  I will have to put you though to another department.  I will just transfer you.”

On hold for 5 minutes.

Company X: “Hello, how can I help you” (Irish accent – call centre in Belfast)

Me: “Yes I have just been transferred. I am looking for a price for a permanent….”

Company X: “Sorry, you have come through to the wrong department.  Let me take some details and I will transfer you through to the right department.

Give details – name, company name and what I am looking for.

On for 3 minutes.

Company X: “Sorry for the wait Mr Kirk I understand that you are looking for some prices for (insert service).  Could I just take some more details”

Provide details again on my company name and what I am looking for (I am losing the will to live).

Company X: “Right do you know where you would like (this service) to take place”

Me: “Yes, the original place I rang – in Leeds”

Company X: “Yes all enquiries are dealt with centrally here now.  Which office in Leeds was it……”

I provide the details.

Company X “OK Mr…….”

Me: “Kirk”

Company X “Yes sorry Mr Kirk let me pull up the full details for the Leeds site you are looking at.  It is taking a little time – the system seems to have frozen (laughs to himself).  Sorry about this, everything seems to be running a little slowly today”  (You’re not kidding).

Now this guy goes into full “Sales Mode” tells me that it is a perfect time to be looking for this service as there are some fantastic deals on at the moment…blah blah blah.  Doesn’t stop talking!

Me: “Could I just ask you a few questions?”

Company X: “Yes I was going to ask you if you have any questions.”

Me: “Does the prices you have quoted include X and Y”

Company X: “Erm, no Mr Kirk.  There will be additional charges for that.”

Me: “And what would those charges be?”

Company X: “I can’t actually tell you from here as those charges are decided on at a local level.  If you would like I can book an appointment for you to go and meet your local representation who can give you that information…..”

When I finally got off the phone (and got my life back) I had been on the call for a total of 23 minutes.  All I achieved within that time was to be “sold to” with half the information I required.  I will never ever use this company (even though the product is of a high quality) because I never want to go through anything like that ever again.

So the moral of this tale?  Sales leads are important to your business.  Although your product, your price and promotions are vitally important in generating that lead, if you do not have the processes and people in place at the back end then they are never going to convert into customers.  What is more they have not only lost my potential custom (forgetting the fact that I was only conducting a price benchmarking exercise anyway) but I will delight in telling everyone I know how awful it was.

The company in question?  It would be unfair to name them, but make sure you do your research next time you need a serviced office!

The following two tabs change content below.
Ian is the founder of Opportunity Marketing marketing, with over 18 years of experience in successfully setting up marketing departments, creating marketing strategies and implementing these strategies across a wide number of SME companies in both the B2B and B2C sectors through a variety of channels.