A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog asking if proactive service was still a moment of truth. Today, I’ll answer that question with a few prime examples to show that it truly is. Proactive service done right is a delighter. It is an opportunity to build a stronger relationship, to show your commitment to your customers – similar to the commitment that you want them to show to you. That two way street, that commitment to each other… that’s called a relationship.
OK, off that soapbox and on to the proactive, er, no-active, service examples. I have three examples that show how proactive service could have really been something special, could have solidified the relationship. I’m not saying that I’m leaving these providers – the pain isn’t great enough… yet; but I am saying that they have missed some real opportunities to keep my eyes from wandering.
Recently, Shep Hyken wrote about a tangential phenomenon in his article for The Social Customer titled, New Customers Shouldn’t be the Only Ones to Get Special Pricing. I guess my post should be titled, “Existing Customers Should Have Their Accounts Evaluated on a Regular Basis.”
Example #1: Wells Fargo
I have been a Wells Fargo customer for almost 25 years. Yes, TWENTY FIVE YEARS! You would think that they know me by now… or at least have something in their computers that they’re all clacking away on as soon as you call that would tell them a little bit about me. (O gosh, I sound like my mom! LOL!) And you would think they would honor that relationship tenure, appreciate my business, and ensure that I have the right accounts for the way I bank with them. But, alas, tis not so.
I was recently doing some online banking and became increasingly annoyed at a monthly service fee that had grown on and off over the last couple of years. At one point, they stopped charging me a fee (because I have direct deposit), and then they started again; the fee went down a little and then crept up by a dollar a few times… enough that it was noticeable but not enough to make me scream, “Highway robbery!” Yet. Until this week. I searched their website and found a checking account type that was fee-free, as long as I used direct deposit and maintained a certain monthly minimum. Fair enough. That matched my scenario. Although, let me just point out, that had been my scenario for many years prior. And now I wonder how long I shouldn’t have been charged a fee.
I called Wells Fargo about changing my account. Now, mind you, I believe that, as a 25-year customer, I deserve some appreciation and a “O gosh, sorry, let me take care of that for you right away.” (Whenever I call AAA, of which I’ve been a member for just as long, if not longer, the first thing they say is, “Thank you for being a member for ## years. How can we help you?”) Nope. The first thing out of the Wells Fargo rep’s mouth was, “You have a large balance. Would you like to open a savings account?” And that sales schpiel wove throughout the entire conversation. Had he taken a look at my account, he would have seen why I had a large balance and that I have a savings account with another institution. (He would have caught this by regular the transfers to that bank.)
If it wasn’t painful to switch banks at this point, I would have switched rather than call. And that isn’t out of the question just yet.
In the end, he apologized for the inconvenience and suggested that I call in regularly to make sure that I have the account that is right for me. Hmmm, ouch. So no proactive service here. What a delighter that would have been. Does your bank do that?
Example #2: Verizon Wireless
Years ago, when I was working for J.D. Power and Associates, AirTouch was a client of mine. They also happened to be my cell phone service provider. As we were discussing the results of some of the customer feedback they received, they talked about putting into place an algorithm that would look at your cell service usage versus your cell contract and reach out to you if you were in a plan that did not meet your usage needs… and offer to switch you to a different, more-appropriate plan.
After a series of mergers, AirTouch became a part of Verizon Wireless, a company with whom I have now also been a customer for almost 25 years. While they have tools on their website that you can use to determine if you are in the right plan, there was never a proactive outreach to say, “Your contract is for 2,000 hours a month, but you only use 1,000 per month; perhaps you should switch your plan.” Of course, now they have unlimited plans, so it doesn’t matter, but, again, no proactive call from them.
Does your cell carrier check your plan against your usage and offer to put you in a plan better suited for your needs?
Example #3: Cox Communications
A few months ago, I wanted to pare down my home and office landline calling plans because I wasn’t making as many calls with my them as I used to. As I did my research, I was irate to find out that Cox had unlimited calling plans for $29.99 plus the cost of features… when I’d been paying HUNDREDS of dollars every month for my long distance calls! I’ve been a Cox customer for 10 years. How long have I been overpaying?
Has your phone company switched to better plans and pricing, but you’re still paying exorbitant rates?
OK, let’s put this out there. I’m an adult. I am responsible for my own expenditures. But does all of the onus fall on us, as customers, to make sure we are using the right plans? Companies are the ones to make changes to their pricing, plans, etc. Should they not notify us when this happens? Or, as Shep Hyken notes, are these offers only for new customers? Do companies not have the right data and tools to do the right thing for the customer? Or do customers need to jump through hoops to figure out if they are in the best plan?
The Bottom Line
To answer the question: Yes, proactive service is a moment of truth. Too bad companies aren’t more proactive.
Here’s the bottom line: companies are not putting the customer first; they are putting shareholder value and profits first. If they put the customer first, then profits would happen naturally.