A word on customer loyalty

“Good evening, Mr. Christiansen,” the electronic voice said. 

“This is an automated call from T-Mobile’s customer care center. After reviewing your phone’s internet usage, we have noticed that you use between 100 to 135 megabytes of data per month. You are currently on the 5 GB plan, which is approximately 40 times your average monthly data usage. By downgrading to our new 200 megabyte plan, you will save $20 per month. Press 1 to make this change, press 9 to remain on the 5 Gigabyte plan, and thank you for using T-Mobile”

I was blown away. I’d never had a company inform me of a less expensive option that would be a better fit. And since every bit of cash I can save counts, I pressed 1.

“Thank you Mr Christiansen. Your plan has been modified. Press 1 if you would like to speak to a representative.”

I pressed 1, asked the representative to renew my contract. They had a loyal customer for life.

Impressed?

I would be too.

But this never happened. Here’s what actually happened:

I have been having unreliable data coverage from T-Mobile--but dreading the half hour troubleshooting experience, I procrastinated calling customer service. After about a month, I finally called and told them to cancel my data plan so I could just save the 30 bucks a month until my plan expired in 3 months when I was planning on switching to Verizon anyway.

The rep said that I HAD to have a data plan (like a lot of smart phones)  but also informed me there was a 200 MB plan for 10 bucks a month, compared to the the 5 GB plan I was on for $30/month. He said I never went over 135 MB.  Also, my wife’s line has been on the same 5 GB plan, and her data usage was about the same as mine.

When I realized this meant we’ve been overpaying for completely unused data, the tech support agent said quickly that the “data plans change all the time”.  The new $10 plan was about a year old, so I guess I’ve only overpaid about $400 for the past year for the two lines. Whew.

My fault? Absolutely. I could have done a better job vigilantly checking T-Mobile.com for new ever-changing data plans, and could have monitored my data usage. But like most people, I signed up for the service, set the bill on auto-pay, and thought all along I was on the best plan possible.

Oh well, live and learn. It certainly wasn’t the first time I have overpaid for a service. And for this, I take full responsibility. But in a competitive market, I’m baffled with how readily some companies are to idly sit by, while the customer so obviously overpays for unused services and features.

So my question is… why? Why not keep a protective eye out for customers, guiding them into the best plan for them? Why leave them in a situation where they are paying extra, completely wasting their money?

I guess I can understand from a purely financial perspective–more profits for the company, shareholders, blah blah blah… but what about creating that ever-elusive “customer LOYALTY?”

Traditional customer loyalty doesn’t seem to exist as much anymore. People like me will gladly invest 15 minutes to find cheaper auto insurance–even if my parents have been with State Farm for 50 years.

But too many companies act like this is the new permanent behavior of the customer–and act like they as the company need to go for the quick buck, instead of going after the long term value of the customer.

They talk like “the customer comes first,” but their efforts are misdirected.  Acting kind and pleasant during my phone call doesn’t earn my loyalty. Decreasing my hold time before I talk to someone doesn’t earn my loyalty. Caring about me as a customer does.

And if I feel like I am cared about, like they TRULY are there to help me find the best plan, I’ll stick with that company…even if they are a more than their competitor. And in a world where every bit of cash I can save counts, that’s saying a lot.

What companies have earned your customer loyalty?

The latest anti-Mitt advertisements

I’m voting for Mitt Romney for one major reason, and it’s not because he and I both happen to be Mormon.

I’m voting for Mitt because out of all of the candidates, he has the best record of turning organizations around.

That is what he did for years at Bain Capital. He then went on to improve the budget as Governor of Massachusetts. He next took over as the leader of the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, which was embroiled in scandal and deeply in debt. He turned it around to not only become profitable, but turn it into what was arguably one of the most organized, cleanest, and safest Olympics in history–especially important, considering the extra security precautions needed just months after 9/11.

As a professional,  he has had decades of experience turning organizations around, and helping them operate more efficiently.

But in order to make an organization efficient, you sometimes have to remove what is inefficient–which can sometimes be poorly performing employees, entire departments, or unprofitable portions of the company. He had to cut wasteful spending, sometimes resulting in pay decreases and even job losses. As heartbreaking as it is to be laid off (I’ve been there), it is the built in risk of being an employee, and it is an unavoidable byproduct of  a free market economic system.

And what were the results? Nimble, profitable, well organized companies.

Stick with me here because I’m going on a voyage to dreamville–but wouldn’t it be GREAT if someone could go in and clean up the Federal Government excess, the same way Bain Capital cleaned up corporations?  Wouldn’t it be fantastic if someone actually could cut excessive government spending?  Is it too much of a stretch to surmise that someone who has decades of experience doing that very thing in the private sector would be more likely to have success as President than someone who hadn’t ever actually turned a company around?

I know that would result in the lay-offs of several hundred thousand employees, and the mere suggestion of that being a positive thing makes me sound ruthless–maybe even “more ruthless than Wall Street”, the description given to Mitt by the “Winning Our Future” Super PAC (it must be “winning” the future of government employees–not the private sector).

But our federal government has become so embarrassingly bloated, so wasteful, and so incredibly inept at doing anything, we NEED a person in the White House who can turn it around, the same way the upside-down 2002 Winter Olympics were turned around. Yes, some people would lose their jobs. Yes, that would result in a lot of tears, hand wringing, and bitterness. But who is paying for those jobs? I am. You are. We all are. Do you want to continue to pay for all of that excess? I sure don’t.

This is why I’m so baffled by the latest “you don’t know Mitt” commercials that are bombarding the airwaves. It is absurd to me that his Republican rivals, primarily Rick “oopsie daisy” Perry and “Mr. Omniscient” Newt Gingrich are criticizing Romney’s business success–calling him a “vulture capitalist”, and citing only the  lay-offs instead of the overwhelming job creation from companies like Staples or Sports Authority.

You’d expect that kind of envy-criticism and anti-capitalism attitude from the left, but never from fellow Republicans.  What are they trying to say, that we’d be better off with someone who WON’T make cuts where needed?

So count me among those Republicans who have defended Mitt Romney. To quote Rudy Giuliani, who said to the Fox News Channel: “I’m shocked at what they are doing. I’m going to say it’s ignorant. Dumb. It’s building something we should be fighting — ignorance of the American economic system.”

I applaud the fact that he and Bain Capital were able to trim down companies, turn them around, and make them productive. I only hope he gets the chance to do the same for our Federal Government.

Has anyone else noticed movie audiences declining in etiquette?

After weeks of blogger’s guilt, and agonizing over what all important subject to cover, I finally settled on this one…. Not politics, not new years resolutions, not fatherhood, or anything else far more important. My return to blogging will be about this: My annoyances with certain yayhoos at the movies. And my theory that it’s a cultural phenomenon. Enjoy!

I got my first job at age 11. I was the official weeder for Mrs. Fackerell’s flower gardens. Thank goodness for my older brother Mike paving the way for this lucrative opportunity, otherewise I would never experience the pay-day from 11 hours of weeding at 1.25/hour. Plus, if there were ever a check that added up to, say,  $17.75, she would generously round up to an even $20.00. I was rich!

But this isn’t a post about working as a kid. This is a post about what I’d experience with that money.

For years, most of my money was excitedly spent on movie tickets at the two-auditorium movie theater in American Fork, called “The Towne Cinemas”. What movies did I see?  I remember seeing the Daniel Larusso duke it out with Johnny in Karate Kid. I remember going with Marty to the 50’s in Back to the Future, and pretending to see my parents as extras. And then of course there were the Star Wars movies, which felt like a constant roller coaster of adrenaline and cringing in my seat from terror of Darth Vader. The Indiana Jones movies certainly made the list as well, which lead to me buying a bullwhip from a very talented haggler in Tijuana, when I was 13.

Back then, though, the movies were a true escape to a magical world. And I loved every minute of it.

Yeah, you had your loud talkers and loud laughter, and occasionally some punk would try to be obnoxious before being shushed by the girls he was there to impress…. but pretty much everyone obeyed their parent’s instructions, quieted down, and followed the movie. If the loud laugher laughed during the funny part, what was the big deal? Everyone else was laughing anyway, so it wasn’t bad.

And when children misbehaved, they were escorted out of the movie. Not by an usher, but by the parent. My hard earned money was well spent seeking a temporary escape into the fantasy and wonderland of the silver screen.

My love for movies continued througout high school and college. I saw movies often on the weekend they came out. It became a popular date night activity for me. Not because I didn’t have creativity, but because I truly loved seeing movies.

Then cell phones arrived on the scene.

Not just arrived, but became ubiquitous. Cell phones do so much culturally. Besides making you available, by virtue of staying connected to someone who isn’t present, you devalue those who are. In emotionally immature people of all ages, this leads to rudeness towards strangers. The bodies that sit around them aren’t nearly as important as their own, and the person they are texting. What I’ve noticed during movies now, is that almost everyone has to check their phones for texts, reply if “urgent”, check the time, check their call log, and in some rare occassions, answer their phones. Not in the foyer, SEATED. It has become increasingly annoying. Kicking or propping your feet on the seat in front of you is the norm, even if someone is seated there.

This behavior has also coincided with the world’s worst case of inflation for any single item. The movie ticket. In my lifetime, it has gone from 1 buck a ticket, to as much as 12.50 for an IMAX showing. For two of us, that’s a cool $25.00, not counting their popcorn and awful tasting, yet necessary diet coke–both of which have to be laced with gold dust to justify such a high price.

But I still WANT to enjoy the movies. So I suck it up, hand over my month’s wages, and hope for the best. I find my seat (learning more and more that I’ll enjoy it far more if I sit on the top row), and my wife and I get seated.

The theater then begins to fill…. I watch them enter, and predict who they will be. Will they be the constant texter? The phone answerer? The loud laugher? The seat kicker? The OMG’er? The line-repeater? or will the be one of the worst ones, the constant “what did he say?-er.

Maybe it’s the fact that I’m starting to watch for them. but the disruptive have been very hard to ignore. Then I get so frustrated that I’d just forked over 50 bucks for an enjoyable night out, and these morons have to ruin it, by acting as if it were their own home theater.  And quite frankly, I don’t feel that love of going to the movies like I once did. And that’s sad to me.

Most of childhood has to stay with childhood, and you become “too old” to do those kinds of activities. But I like to have SOME things to bring with me. I like to feel that love of the movies again. The same way I love to feel the love of Disneyland. It’s fun. It’s innocent. And though my life is filled with responsibilities, deadlines, critiques, pressure, stress that sometimes pound all of the childhood innocence out of me, it would be nice if I could count on a good ol’ movie escape every now and again.

Has anyone else noticed a drastic decline in movie etiquette? And if so, what do you attribute it to? I have a few theories:

1. It could be blamed on Hollywood, for making movies which attract the more youthful, boisterous crowd? (Please read this article “The day movies died” for further opinion on that subject)

2. The advent, and constant connection to cell phones

3. Poor parenting, by not teaching the proper way to behave in movies and other group settings.

4. Other— please explain?

I welcome your opinions—if you have any about what I observe to be a phenomenon–or if you haven’t noticed a change at all.

Craig

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