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?

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