Your Customers Aren't Stupid


Your Customers Aren't Stupid

By Erik Linask, Group Editorial Director  |  December 11, 2012

This article originally appeared in the Nov. 2012 issue of CUSTOMER

One of the things you notice about businesses very quickly is their perception of their customers. It shows in the way they interact with customers, and it shows in the way they approach technology. It may seem intuitive, but it bears noting that businesses that spend on technology have a more professional and respectful approach to customers.

And typically, those that don’t show high levels of respect for their customers can find a host of negative comments all over the social universe. Not long ago, that was a small risk. Today, however, that risk increases with the staggering growth in social media use – Facebook (News - Alert) is now over a billion users.

So then, why don’t more businesses treat their customers as intelligent human beings. When it comes to spending, people typically pay much more attention to detail than they otherwise might. Again, there was a time when things were done a certain way because that’s what technology allowed. But, today, there are complex new back-end systems, CRM platforms, automation technologies, social software, scheduling capabilities, and much more that allow businesses to fully engage their customers and very easily provide them a level of service that they not only deserve, but that acknowledges them as respected customers.

Consider, if you will, a recent example with Cablevision. To its credit, the cableco was able to strike a deal with the NFL Network prior to the start of the 2012 season to carry both the NFL Network and the NFL Red Zone channel. Great news for football fans! As it turned out, the NFL Network was included in my existing cable package, but Red Zone was part of a secondary sports package that required an additional subscription.

Where the problem lies is half of the channels in the sports package are also part of the mid-tier general package (i.e., Value, Silver, Gold), which effectively means sports fans subscribing to the sports package are being double-billed for those channels.

To make matters worse, when I asked the agent why I was being double-billed, I was given this response: “You aren’t being double-billed, these channels are part of multiple packages we offer.” Trying to explain the situation was futile, as you might expect, and did nothing but aggravate me further.

So I ask, with all the complex billing and provisioning software available, and with the massive amounts of customer data operators have, does it not seem reasonable that such a simple problem could be easily resolved though basic Boolean logic?

In many cases, these incidents might soon be lost in the mosaic of daily activity, were it not for two factors. First, this is hardly the first case where a provider has shown an unwillingness to leverage modern technology to enhance its customer service operations, most notably the ongoing challenge with customers having to provide account information multiple times; and second, service providers, in particular, send monthly reminders about issues such as this in the form of monthly bills.

Why the reluctance to focus more effort on keeping existing customers happy? It’s been all too frequently noted that it’s much less expensive to retain customers than it is to acquire new ones – subsequently, minimizing churn should be at the top of the list of priorities, especially as alternative providers continue to enhance their offerings and capabilities. Yet, Cablevision, in particular, still seems intent on focusing its efforts on new customers, treating its existing clientele like second-class citizens. Sooner or later, they are going to reach a point of no return. They aren’t stupid – don’t treat them like they are. They recognize when they are being played, and you’ll lose the game.

Edited by Brooke Neuman
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