I often point out to my marketing clients that the link between sales and customer service is unavoidable and very close. An experience I had today reflects this point and shows how easy it is to leave a potential customer undecided and dissatisfied – and with money still in her pocket!
My 3-year-old Palm handheld died, I need something new. Time to consider one of the all-in-one telephone and PDA's. I'm a free agent right now, my contract with Verizon is up and I can change carriers without penalty. So off I go to AT&T to play with the iPhone, something I've been curious about for a while.
As I walked into the AT&T store I'm greeted by a “sales concierge” who asks my name and a few questions, fills in a form, and personally walks me over to an eager-to-be-helpful saleswoman. She answers my many questions patiently, shows me a display iPhone I can play with, and even checks to see if my husband's corporation offers a discount for setting up an account. I'm interested but wary about call coverage in the rural areas outside Knoxville, where I live. I leave with her card, though, and when I leave I'm pretty convinced that I'll go back to purchase.
A few hours later I went (for the third time) to the Verizon store just across the street from my office. I'd been there twice before, and after waiting a good 10 minutes and having no one even give me eye contact I left. This time, a tall young man met my eyes right as I walked in and asked if he could help me. Ahhhh….we're off to a good start! I explain that I'm in the market for a phone/PDA combination and had been off looking at an iPhone, but was undecided and currently a Verizon customer. I also pointed out that I am currently a free agent cell-phone wise – a cue to the salesperson that he has a great opportunity to upgrade my current phone, engage me in yet another two-year contract, and make some good money in the process. “Oh,” says he, upon hearing all this, “Well, sounds like this would be a good time to change since your contract is over.” Before I can get over that reply he launches again, “If you've looked at the iPhone, you must like touch-pads. We have the Blackberry, no touch pad to offer you. But thanks for stopping by.”
I hope that you are as aghast at the Verizon salesperson's lack of finesse as I am. Does the company give no sales training at all? Here this guy has a customer of 8 years standing with him, asking for a solution to her problem, fully able to walk away to another company, and he comes off as uncaring and completely lacking in sales acumen. He may as well have said to me, “Our products really aren't very good.” Maybe he thinks that, but if so he might think of working somewhere else.
So, you might be wondering, did I go back to get the iPhone, kissing Verizon goodbye? No, not yet – although I still might. I've checked around with 3 people who use AT&T and all three independently complained to me that their calls drop constantly – right in the middle of town. This points out another marketing truth – word of mouth will overcome even a good salesperson every single time. While I appreciated the helpfulness of the AT&T salesperson, I can't deal with dropped calls – and I DON'T live in the center of town.
I still need a new PDA, and I still need a good solution. I'm the epitome of a frustrated customer who can't find a place to put her money – and in these tight economic times that is really a sad thing for both AT&T and Verizon.
Until next time,