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How do these companies hold onto customers?

I wrote a couple of weeks back about the positive impact that providing great customer experience has on your business.  That just seems obvious.  But, so few companies do it well.

I have had some recent experiences with Dell and DirecTV.  Both did a poor job, which cost them some money and my long-term loyalty.

With Dell, whom I have bought many PCs from over the years, I wanted to order two new desktop PCs for my home.  I found what I liked and got them configured.  When I was ready to check out, I got a message saying that Dell was offering 12 month financing with no interest.  Hard to turn that down.  I filled out the credit application.  I got approved for $5,000.  Great.  Except my 2 PCs and software added up to $5500.

At the suggestion of the message on the Dell shopping cart, I called their credit department and asked them to review my application to see if they could approve a higher credit line for me.  My credit history is very good, and I have minimal debt.  I figured that if someone took a look at my credit report, it would be a no-brainer.  But, I was told that company policy was that $5K was the max for an inital line.  And, I couldn't put the extra $500 on my credit card in order to finance the remaining $5000.  I had to reduce my total order size to $5000 or less.

So, I took a bunch off stuff off my order and thought I had it right.  Unfortunately, the total came to $5009.55.  I got another notice during checkout saying that I should ask to have my credit line increased to cover the difference.  So, I called again.  Again, I was turned down.  For just $9.55.

I reconfigured what I was buying so that it cost $4998.76.  And, put through the order.  But, if I had more time, I would have shopped elsewhere.  I was too far down the process to turn back.  And, I have been happy with their machines.

The lack of letting a human being make a policy exception cost them about $500 in revenue as well as two calls to live humans who were just going to tell me 'No.'  And, it was their web site that said I should call to check on getting a higher credit limit!  I'll say that was probably $175 in gross margin and another $175 in costs for my calls.  $350 out the door.  On an order where their margin was probably only about $1250 anyway.  Bad business.

DirecTV was worse.  I upgraded to their newer equipment to get their new HD channels.  It took 4 truck rolls for them to get it right.  Their customer service reps don't know anything.  They outsource they field techs to a company that also isn't up to speed.  I learned more about how to make the stuff work through great online forums run by users.  Their own people don't even read these forums and claim that they are 'all wrong.'  Completely off base.  Their four truck rolls (due to poorly trained staff) probably consumed months and months of their profit from me.  Bad business.

However, I stayed with these vendors.  I stayed with Dell out of inertia.  I stayed with DirecTV because they have the best HD selection, including NFL Sunday Ticket.  But, I am ripe for the picking for someone new who can meet my needs.

Hopefully soon I'll be able to write about a vendor who gets it right.

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