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The importance of getting the customer

Customer satisfaction has come up a lot lately. Both in the interviews I’ve done for clients and through personal experience. And not in a good way, unfortunately, regarding the latter.

As you may already know, I’ve just recently officially started my very own company. Soon after Cape Context Oy was listed in the trade register, I started receiving these phone calls. Hundreds of them. And I have to take every call from an unknown number, you know, because it could be a customer. Mostly it’s not. It’s operators, insurance companies, accountants, business premises, directories… you name it. All pushing their services to this tiny new business starting up with the minimum of resources.

Mostly these service providers have not done their homework at all. They have no idea what I need and on what scale. I mean, all I really need is my brain and good connections, personal and telecommunicational. They could find out this easily if they cared to listen even for a minute. But they don’t. They just shoot me point blank with their semi-automatic sales pitch, and that’s where they fail, desperately. Poor things don’t know that I am actually a very good buyer. Sell me in the right way, and I’ll buy. But with these telesales brutes, it’s nearly impossible to make a decent deal. The phone calls end in me lecturing them about the principles of human interaction and communications (which, by the way, are the principles of sales and customer service).

Despite the horrible quality of telemarketing in Finland, I’ve managed to find myself an accountant (word-of-mouth recommendation from a friend), operator (same that I use personally), insurance company (same that I use personally), bank (surprise, surprise: same that I use personally), and IT support (face-to-face peer-to-peer impact in a networking event). So far, in two or so months, only the bank has managed to start blowing it. Well, the operator is much worse, actually, but I’m used to that.

The first meeting with the bank was positive: “we’re glad you’ve chosen us blah, blah, and I am your contact person if you need anything”. Terrific. Then I needed something but my contact person was out of the office and her e-mail was not monitored. Preferring to handle things with the person I had already met and who knew about my account, I decided to wait until she was back. That was a long wait, no word. Finally I decided to call the switch to find out what was going on with my contact. They said they could take care of the matter on the phone, no need to come to the bank personally. Terrific. A few days later, my person contacts me and says she’s been transferred to another department but she can book a meeting with someone else. No need, I say, as my matter had already been cleared, but could you suggest a new contact person to handle my company affairs in the future? Her answer: If your company grows, you can have your own contact person.

Eh, uh-huh, okay. Did I just miss the logic here? Did they forget to tell me something about their practices at some point? Is it a good idea to make the customer feel small (even if they are small)? Why didn’t she just say: you can contact anyone here in the office and they will be happy to help you?

I know I am making a big deal out of a very small incident, but you see, a few wise words can make all the difference to the customer. Now I am confused and unhappy with the bank and already spreading the word about their customer service. Somebody (who has more money to invest) may listen to me and decide to use another bank instead of this one. A small incident can have expensive consequences.

So, to give the story its long-awaited conclusion, by ‘getting’ I don’t only mean getting a customer but more importantly, listening to and understanding them to keep them happy. As you would do to any other human being to maintain a relationship with them. That is crucial for long-term business.

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