Playing the Customer Card

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OK, I admit it. I played the Customer Card. I’m not proud of it, but sometimes as a consumer there is really no other choice. As someone in the business of helping companies create and maintain customer relationships, I sometimes feel guilty when I use the old, “Do you know who I am? I’m a customer!” routine.

But this time it worked.

I’m making some improvements to my house and as a result will be using more natural gas. That means I need a larger gas meter. My contractor told me to call the gas company and have them come out and put one in. No problem, I thought. I can handle this part of the project. I started by calling the customer service number on my bill. I live in Massachusetts and since my gas company is part of a large utility company that provides service up and down the East Coast, I wasn’t surprised when the New Jersey-based rep gave me a name and number to call at a local office.

I called and left a message for the gentleman. Three days went by and no return call. I left another message. Nothing. A few days later I left another message. Nada. A few days later, yet another message. Cue the crickets.

By now I was frustrated to say the least. I was more puzzled though. Why wouldn’t a company return a customer’s phone call after four messages?

I decided to ask that question of the gas company’s management. After 12 more calls and navigating through the phone system, I finally got a call back from someone in management. She was very nice and apologetic. She said the sales office (the people that give out the meters) was very busy and they would call me back when they could. I told her that after three weeks, I was losing my optimism that someone would be calling anytime soon. She told me I just had to trust them.

That’s when I snapped.

I brought out the Customer Card. I asked her (quite politely mind you) what the company’s CEO would think about his chances of achieving the company’s financial plan for 2011 if he knew his organization wouldn’t return a customer’s call—who’s just trying to buy more product!

Bingo. She finally changed her tune and promised me follow up. Later that day I got a phone call. When I saw the local number and heard the familiar Massachusetts accent, I knew I was on my way to a new meter. The technician came by the next day and my gas meter issues are solved.

I know that no one that I spoke with at the gas company was deliberately being anti-customer. When I finally got someone to see it from my side, (the customer side) they couldn’t have been more responsive.

The lesson for consumers? Don’t settle for poor service. Play your Customer Card, but play it wisely and to the right people.

The lesson for organizations? Don’t let being busy allow your organization to lose focus on what’s really important. Even in a busy, multi-channel world, the customer is still king.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Michael Burke
Mike has more than 17 years of business development experience in the database and direct marketing industries supporting both B2B and B2C organizations. As a well-regarded thought leader, Mike has published articles in DMNews, Direct Magazine and other industry publications, and has spoken at industry conferences such as NCDM and the Travel Industry Association conference.

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