You can have this one for free…

Over my 12 or so years working in market research I have come across the odd brief that aims to understand key drivers of customer loyalty, or conversely how to halt customer churn.

Here’s my answer; and you can have this one for free…

Don’t piss your customers off…

Respect their time…

Create a culture that is about helping them with their issues, not make them worse

It’s not rocket science.

Here is my story…

This morning I received a text from Virgin Mobile Australia saying that I am coming close to my agreed credit limit. Weird. So I went on-line and discovered my account was at some ridiculously high amount. Checked my data charges and they were all good. So it must be something in my call charges. I have never reached my limit, so I wanted to find out what was going on. At this stage I am still open to the fact this could be my problem. I am on a new plan so I’m not sure how it’s all working out. Maybe I have made more calls than I normally have, although I am not sure I have.

So I call the customer service team. My experience with the Virgin Mobile customer service team in the past has been frankly terrible. Appalling. Hair-pulling-frustratingly crap. You get the picture. But there has always been light at the end of the tunnel via their very responsive and most-excellent social media team. The person (or people?) who handles their twitter account has helped me out on more than one occasion, or at least been a sympathetic ear to my issue.

But just once I’d like to call their “customer service” team and not be frustrated enough with their handling of my issue. To not be forecd into asking their social media guys for help. Just for once for them to listen to what I need, and be able to deliver it.

I’m not sure why I had any basic expectations with this call, as they’ve never been able to help me, but yes – I have a 20 minute plus phone call that instead of just answering my question (“is it actually me who has made all these calls or is something gone awry in the system”, “Am I on the wrong plan?”) I get to talk to two members of their team who have not been enabled in any way to help me.  In fact, they get me so angry and frustrated that if I could walk away from Virgin Mobile right now I would.

It’s all good and well to have a great social media team to monitor what is being said about your brand and help customers out if needed, but hey, here’s a radical idea – why not create a service culture that means that things don’t have to be “escalated”?

I am singling out Virgin Mobile Australia here as I am a customer – an unhappy one, and my experience is still a fresh and ugly wound . But I have these same experiences with a whole lot of other service businesses and I’m sure you do too.   Frustrating and annoying.

So I sit and wait for someone to call me and tell me why my bill is so high this month – who knows? Maybe it is my calls? Maybe it’s not. But the fact that no one can tell me until my bill is created in four days time seems a bit stupid. Especially as they send out a message telling me it’s high. If you don’t want me to ask why it’s so high or you can’t tell me, don’t send the flipping message! Is the message designed to hep alleviate what they call “bill shock”?  Trust me, I am already shocked but also now frustrated and really, really angry!

So yes – a simple story to help stop churn.

So service businesses of Australia. If you want to stop churn…Get your service culture right. Offer us a great product. Don’t piss us off. Be great to us instead. If all that fails, your sexy new marketing campaign won’t turn me around. In fact, whenever I see it it will just remind me how disappointed and cross with you I am.  There, I just saved you about $200,000 in research costs, and god knows how many squillions in a fluffy new ad campaign to try and make me feel good about you.

(Right now I am looking at a box from Zappos that says “powered by service”. I’d like a little bit of that culture right now. It’s a great line and from what I hear they deliver to that.)

No amount of free pies will make me happy right now Virgin...



Filed under marketing

5 responses to “You can have this one for free…

  1. I think the problem with Virgin Mobile (and my how it did my head in) is the customer service is run out of Optus, whereas social media is still Virgin… so it’s a clash of two cultures…

    Could be wrong but in my experience Virgin Mobile customer service started totally sucking after Optus took over…

  2. Pingback: Tweets that mention You can have this one for free… | kelpenhagen --

  3. So true. Their social media people are very helpful but their customer service is appalling. They over charge me every other month! For a data plan I’ve never had! I’m sick of speaking to their call centre, they seem incapable of understanding what the problem is. It’s astoundingly bad. My bill is due tomorrow and I’ve been putting off ringing them yet again to complain about the overcharge. And I’m stuck with them until November.

  4. Karen Ibbotson

    Exactly the same thing happened to me with VirginMobile; received the early-warning message and was asked to call them as I was close to credit limit, I checked my balance online and was astounded to see my monthly bill was as $680 (I’m on a $79 p/m plan), I called but (as with you) they said they couldn’t explain why until the bill was processed later in the week. I had a worrying few days until bill day and then when I received my email to say my bill was ready was viewing online, I was surprised to see that it was $85!!!
    Called them again for an explanation and to shout at them for scaremongering and they simply said – “Oh, there are often big differences between mid monthly bills and the final amount.” Well, if that’s the case and you know that (and what a crazy system!!) – don’t send me a text and email telling me I’m at my credit limit….when I’m clearly not. If I get another one, I shall just ignore it!
    I share your frustration, Kel!

  5. Lord Bowl of Stanmore

    I had a chuckle at the first comment…
    The words “customer service” and “Optus” in the same sentence without a vast array of expletives. Haven’t seen that in a while.

    Bad service is industry-wide in telco’s, and I’d go so far as to say it has seeped into the culture of many Australian corporates. It doesn’t matter to them if they lose you as a customer – you’ll be replaced by a disgruntled churner from one of the other 2-3 “competitors”. And so it goes…

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