We upgraded our cable/satellite equipment. While placing the order, the customer service representative asked us if we wanted to take advantage of a promotion offering us a free movie channel for three months. We said yes. But our next bill included a charge for this movie channel. The bill did not include a credit to offset the fee.
We called the company, which acknowledged the slip-up and issued us a credit. But the phone call lasted 28 minutes. Most business owners believe time is money. Consider what you make in about a half hour. Spending 28 minutes of your time to reap the rewards of a free promotion to some extent erases the value of that offer. For example, if a movie channel usually costs $12 a month, a free three-month promotion is worth $36. But if you earn more than $36 for a half-hour of your time, the promotion saved you nothing. In fact, it may have cost you money.
When we first considered upgrading our equipment, we naturally called the company with questions. We didn’t call the company once. We called the company three days in a row with similar technical questions. During each of the three phone calls, a customer service representative gave us slightly different answers. Only one of the people we talked with offered us the free movie channel for three months. Only one of the people we spoke with explained the company would not charge us for the upgraded equipment for the first few months. And each person offered somewhat different answers about the process of installing the new equipment. Were the answers truly changing within a three-day period?
One of our questions focused on a shipping charge. A customer service representative clarified the company would charge us about 20 bucks to FedEx the new equipment to a technician. We asked if the company could waive this fee. Someone checked with a supervisor and the answer was “no.”
After the technician finished installation, I asked him how he received the equipment. He said he picked it up at a local warehouse, where I inferred that stacks of similar equipment sat. I told him the company charged me to send the equipment to him. He wasn’t sure why. He wondered if the company charged us in order to ship the equipment to the local warehouse to ensure local technicians were never in short supply.
When I called the company about the movie channel promotion, I spent less than one minute asking her why I paid for shipping if the technician picked up the equipment at a local warehouse full of product. She confirmed I paid for the company to ship the equipment to the warehouse. I wondered if the warehouse is full of this equipment, why couldn’t the company ship it via “ground” instead of paying to FedEx it?
Some companies forget customers are one of the most important parts of public relations. Who is more significant than current customers? They share experiences with friends. They share experiences on social media. And they are more likely to share those experiences if something appears to raise a red flag.
No one is forcing me to continue to use this particular company. But despite this recent experience, we believe the company still offers us a better choice than its competitors. Maybe society is setting the bar low. In fairness, the customer service representatives were polite. The company sent us a quick email to confirm it provided us with a credit for the movie channel. But imagine if we could have accomplished all this in only one phone call.
Something tells me that although your experience might be slightly different, our experience does not shock you. And that means one of the best ways to shine at public relations is to improve customer relations because customers may be your best … or worst … marketers of all.