A top-down approach to customer satisfaction
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A top-down approach to customer satisfaction

April 30, 2007

When to fire a customerJeffrey Dobkinexcessive phone callers, service call hogs, low price hunters
Some customers are good, some are their evil twins. Every
customer has to be profitable to be maintained. Before they wreck
havoc in your sales, delivery and accounting departments, here are
some suggestions.
Keep your top 20 percent grossing customers. Go on, kiss their
heinies and let them walk all over you. They're worth saving, like
a good marriage or leftover lasagna.
The lowest grossing 20 percent in sales volume on the other
hand, well, can them. Go on, kick them out! Das boot. You don't
need that kind of aggravation. If these accounts can't buy that one
chair that you've had on sale in your showroom for the past three
months and pay list, they shouldn't get the quality service your
sales rep shows them by stopping in once a year. With that kind of
time commitment on your part, they should be making significant
purchases every week. Fire them; any questions?
Break the other 60 percent of your accounts into groups and deal
with them accordingly:
-Excessive phone callers. Is one of your account reps constantly
listening to their stories of, "Oh, you promised these dozen
workstations would be here in February, I've had 12 people working
in the lobby, the kitchen and the bathroom since December and now
it's May," and other tales of woe? Hey, kick them out.
You don't need accounts of whiners like that; they're probably
complaining to everyone else who would listen: state commissioners,
the attorney general, etc. Just ignore them, send them a partial
refund citing "restocking charges" and tell them it was the
manufacturer, not you, who is shipping orders late. Next time,
remember to actually get invoices processed. Hey, mistakes happen
and you don't complain like that, do you?
-Service call hogs. You know the ones: "The chair is missing one
of the rollers." And "The table only has three legs." Frankly, I've
heard fewer complaints from 2-year-olds with heat rash. Simply tell
them your service technicians are busy on important service calls
then take a tip from the telephone companies: put them into a
recorded message loop that tells them that their call is being
recorded to give them better service, and their request for help
has been put in queue in the order in which it has been received.
Then put them on hold. Play a tape of audio ads of how great your
service is and finally blow them off to your Web site to search for
anything they need. Eventually, they'll hang up. Do this enough
times and they won't bother you anymore with these silly service
requests.
-Low price hunters. Everyone likes a good price, but theses guys
are just complainers. "Aw, come on; bring down that cost of a box
of paper clips!" Ok, save them five percent, but they've got to
understand they'll have to sign a contract, just like the cell
phone companies make you do - two years or it's $300 to opt-out
early. Hey, they get away with it, don't they? And no one
complains.
And don't forget the upgrade fee for cell phones, the order
cancellation fee for Web stores, order processing fee at ticket
agencies, additional dealer profit for car dealers, truck roll fee
for cable TV companies, additional fuel surcharge for delivery
services and line recovery fee charges for phone companies. You're
in good company, so there's no reason that additional charges
shouldn't apply to your products as well. Your customers will just
have to understand that you can bring down the cost of the desk to
$10 over list on request, but they'll have to pay up front, and
since there's such a great demand for this model, they'll have to
wait and you're not sure when it will be delivered. Stop in any new
car showroom and take notes on this philosophy.
It's just too bad you don't have a monopoly like the cable TV
companies. You could just keep raising your rates, cutting your
programming and diminishing your service. ("Yes, we'll be there
either Wednesday, Thursday or Friday between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00
p.m. and someone will need to be there.") Just think; if you had
this kind of monopoly, you could tell them all to kiss off and find
another provider, even though you know none exists. So like my
grandpapa used to say, "Fire the pests, exploit the rest!" Rest in
peace, Grandpapa, rest in peace.
Jeff Dobkin is an author, speaker and marketing consultant
with more than 25 years of experience in direct response
copywriting. He also analyzes direct marketing packages, ads,
catalogs and campaigns. He may be reached at (610) 642-1000 or
visit www.dobkin.com.

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