A Rant to Call Centers from a Frustrated Customer
Let me rant for a few minutes. I know it’s not my style. However, I’ve been driven to the brink by two recent call center encounters. I was literally left wondering whether or not I was being punked. The following stories are true. Names have been changed to protect the less than innocent. Selfishly, both of these companies are excellent prospects for my company. What’s more, the experience has highlighted the many differences between transactional selling and consultative selling.
My wife and I sold a car and moved a household recently. In both cases, we had to make calls to either change or discontinue services. The change requests were simple. Discontinuing the services should have been simpler. Or so you would think.
Both of these calls were made to engage in transactions, not consultations.
There was no doubt we knew what we wanted. Furthermore, we were in a hurry to get these tasks off our to-do lists.
The first call was to a company that provides music streaming in your car. It’s hard to be vague about who this company may be. Oh well. The request was simple. We sold the car. So we wanted to discontinue the service. We understood there was an early termination charge. However, that would cost less than continuing to pay for a service we no longer needed.
What was the call center employee’s response? “If you no longer have the radio, we can send you a new one to replace it.” What was my wife’s response? “No thank you. I just want to cancel the service.” Easy enough, right? Oh, I wish.
I’m not blaming the call center rep.
She was only doing her job. However, my wife was transferred to the “save” department where she was on hold for over 25 minutes. Obviously, this company was engaged in more “save” attempts than they had resources for.
As soon as the company’s “closer” answered, my wife was very clear in her position. “Look, I want to cancel my service. I don’t want a new radio or an upgrade to the current service. The car has been sold. I want to cancel and I want a refund of any charges that aren’t taken by a cancellation charge.”
Clear enough? Nope.
“I can help you with that, mam. But first, let me tell you of a promotion we are currently offering to our valued customers. It includes, free of charge, a new radio…”
My wife’s face and neck turned as red as her hair. Her Irish blood was, well, turning more Irish. She said, “I don’t care about your promotion. We no longer have the car. I have now been on the phone for over half an hour. Furthermore, I want to cancel my service NOW and I want a refund. Period.”
Ok, I get the call center rep’s response. “But, mam, I HAVE to tell you about our packages and promotions. It’s what I’m supposed to do.” Wow.
I could go on to describe the three transfers from the “save” center to a supervisor, and finally a manager. However, I won’t bore you with that. It took my wife over 45 minutes to finally get a cancellation and a refund.
I won’t go into the same detail for the cable company. But let’s just say we were subjected to multiple unwanted sales attempts. We were offered three free months of HBO and Cinemax if we didn’t downgrade. Luckily, this call only took 2 transfers and 45 minutes.
Consultative vs Transactional Selling – What’s the Difference?
“I HAVE to tell you about our packages and promotions. It’s what I’m supposed to do.” Yep, someone in management made the demand.
Look, I understand a company trying to keep us as customers. It’s a whole lot less expensive keeping a current customer than finding a new one. But someone at these companies needs to understand the differences between transactional and consultative sales. Under what circumstance is each applicable?
First, a transaction occurs when there is a known problem with a known solution and known costs. An extreme example would be a vending machine. The known problem? You’re thirsty. The known solution? Bottled water in the vending machine? Known pricing? Money for a 16-ounce serving.
When you approach the machine, you don’t want to be asked if you’re thirsty. You shouldn’t have to explain how long it’s been since you’ve consumed liquids. It’s not up to you to describe what you’re going to do with the water once it’s yours. You want to insert your money, press a button, and get your water. The quicker all this happens, the happier you are. You are in “transaction” mode.
Contrarily, we have “consultative” sales. This occurs when there are unknown problems, unknown solutions/costs. In this situation, a vending machine would be inappropriate. You need someone with the skill to ask questions and interpret responses to guide you to the best decision possible.
“Consultative” in a customer service environment means throwing things at the customer to see what sticks. This is regardless of whether or not the customer needs or wants it. It is the equivalent of a soda machine throwing Twinkies at customers. The choice is made for them, even if they’re diabetic or on a strict diet.
A note to all customer service call centers. When customers call to cancel or change services, most are in “transaction” mode. So what do we expect in that environment? We want to have our transactions processed as quickly, painlessly, and professionally as possible. If you decide you want to make it a sales call, ask if I’m ok with that before you throw your Twinkie at me.
Consultative vs Transactional Selling: An Example:
“Would you be interested in hearing about some fantastic alternatives we’re offering our departing customers?” If the answer is no, then drop it.
Contrarily, if the call center wants to be consultative, not INSULT-ative, ask qualifying questions before you offer me a radio. This includes the following. “Ok, I know you sold your car. But do you ever find yourself in a situation where you wish you had a radio of this type when you’re away from your car?” If the answer is no, they should move to close the call. If the answer is yes, they have the right to talk about replacing the car radio with a portable one.
The bottom line is this. If you want your call center to ‘sell’, train them on how to do it properly!
Thanks for letting me rant about transactional selling vs consultative selling. It felt good to get that out.
Do you have an example of a positive call center sales experience?