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Canceling Customers

By Steve Jones,

Today's editorial was originally published on Sept 4, 2007. It is being re-run as Steve is on holiday. 

Last week's guest editorial talked a bit about the customer fiasco at Sprint. I certainly don't think armed services personnel should be penalized and really should be able to get out of almost any contract without penalties if they are transferred. We certainly owe the individuals serving in any of our countries a debt of gratitude and this is the least we can do.

However this seems like a data mining report gone bad to me. I can just imagine some pinheaded MBA reading a BI report that shows customer services costs are $1M and we can cut that down to $200,000 by getting rid of the 1000 customers that cost the most money. You figure that you have 50M customers, losing 1000 or so isn't a big deal. You probably lose 10,000 a month anyway.

So you dig in and see that by manipulating the report variables in your Cognos or Proclarity report, you can find customers that call support more than 25 times a month and customers that roam too much and set a monthly report to auto generate a letter to these people canceling their service. You get this brilliant idea approved and ...

You're in the Wall Street Journal for incredibly insensitive actions. Anyone want that job?

I think this would not have been a big deal for Sprint if they would have dug in deeply to the circumstances of everyone they were thinking of canceling. Check customer service logs, listen to some calls, see if they are truly problems that cost you money or if you have broken processes. From the reports I've seen on various sites and message boards, there were definitely some problems with Sprint's customer service.

If you decide to go into consulting, you will have problem customers. It's just the law of averages that out of every 10 clients, you'll have 1 or 2 that eat up most of your time, are a pain, etc. Dropping them isn't always an option, but neither should you feel that you have to put up with problem customers. Be fair, give them honest effort and service for your charges, and do a professional job.

But don't put up with unfair treatment. The customer isn't always right and sometimes does deserve to be fired.

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Steve Jones