How Salespeople Contribute to Losing Accounts

Seth Godin recently blogged in this post and this post about apologies after lousy customer service.  Well I received some really lousy customer service this week and it perfectly demonstrates exactly what salespeople can do and not do to lose their good accounts.  I’ll make this long story as short as I can:

My company did not receive its W-2 forms from our Payroll company so on Friday, after it was brought to my attention, I called them myself.  I related my problem and the customer service rep:

1) did not apologize
2) offered to track the shipment on UPS (2 weeks too late for that)
3) discovered they were never shipped to us in the first place
4) offered to start a research project to learn why we didn’t receive them (I don’t care)

I said I just wanted the W-2’s on my desk by Monday.  She offered to transfer me to Moshiko, my very own account rep who, until Friday, I didn’t know existed.  But Moshiko wasn’t in.  She offered to leave a message (oh God, no) but I repeated that I just need to have the W-2’s on my desk by Monday.  She said she would put in a request (sounded scary to me).

Next I received an email from the payroll company stating that my quarterly report for the quarter ending 6/30/06 was ready to view on line.  I responded and told them I was looking for W-2’s, not payroll reports.  They sent me another email.  Now my reports for the quarter ending 12/31/06 were ready. It was going to be a long weekend.

Monday came.  The W-2’s did not.
Tuesday came and I got a lucky break.  My first appointment of the day was with Sean, a salesperson from the payroll company, who was here to sell me benefit services.  Well there wasn’t much of a chance of that happening unless he resolved the W-2 problem.

Sean sprung into action.  He picked up the phone, called his office, got Michelle, his manager on the phone, related the history and the current problem, got a commitment from Michelle, along with her direct line. He told me the W-2’s would be here today and I would hear back from Michelle within an hour.  He also left me his cell phone number in case I needed to call.

This was pretty good on Sean’s part.  He did what most capable salespeople would do, his very best effort to resolving a crisis.  The only problem with that was, that he also failed to do what most salespeople fail to do. He didn’t follow up – either internally or with me – to make sure that the problem was resolved.  If he had followed up he would have learned that not only did the W-2’s not arrive, but Michelle never called back either. I called his cell phone, left him a very strong voice mail and read him the riot act.

Wednesday came.  It began with a phone message from Lisa, the first person at this company to actually apologize.  She told me that she had the W-2’s reprinted and shipped and she provided me with a tracking number for the package on DHL.  When the package didn’t arrive on Wednesday, we tracked it on line at DHL and learned that it had been delivered – to a company in New York (we’re in Massachusetts).  I repeat, we tracked it.  Lisa didn’t follow up.  I called Lisa and left her a voice mail and read her the riot act.

Thursday came.  It began with another phone message from Lisa, apologizing again, and repeating the steps from Wednesday.  They were reprinted, reshipped, new tracking number, etc.  Then two miracles happened.  The W-2’s actually arrived and I received a call from Moshiko, the account manager I didn’t know I had.  She was actually quite pleasant, apologized, offered to credit my account for the services  for December, and closed the conversation by saying, “Mr. Kurlan, this should have never perspired.”  Aha. Now I get it.

Lesson – Salespeople and Customer Service people must follow up after they think they have resolved an issue.
Lesson – Let’s learn the language, huh?
Lesson – Let’s get it right  the first time.
Lesson – Apologize first and ask the customer what they would like you to do.