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Posted on May 23rd, 2014 by Steve Cassidy

How to lose a business customer on the web

OverworkedPeople talk about Net Neutrality a lot. The fear is that a two-tier (or four-tier or six tier…) internet will develop once the floodgates are open, so that internet businesses can develop cosy preferential relationships with their most profitable partners, relegating all others to less well serviced, lesser performing backwaters that don’t get the offers or find themselves cut out of all sensible forms of communication.

The Net Neutrality headline assumes this isn’t the case at the ┬ámoment, and the current level playing field has to be protected and fought over and upheld, even as a basic human right.

I have to say: I suspect the fuss about Net Neutrality is actually the end of a process of segregation, not the beginning. It’s the final move in a separation of web users into Businesses and Consumers, which has been going on for years.

For example: today, I needed to place an urgent order for memory. Project to finish, want to get delivery ASAP by paying for it, need to make sure the order is sensibly expedited. So I went to the Crucial UK website. It has done me proud on a number of occasions, even with obscure memory types for peculiar, outdated machines, and has a well-regarded ability to narrow down on the right kind of memory for the machine you identify. Which on this occasion, it did: except that apparently, having forgot which of my passwords I should be entering, it immediately fired me off a password reset email.

The instant he thinks he’s got Joe Public on the line, that’s it: game over.

Which did not arrive. Many other emails did – even password resets from other sites during the same time – so I thought it was unlikely this was my problem. The checkout page shows a Freephone number above the password entry box, so I rang it. Four times.

On the last time, I left my Skype Out session running, as the Crucial phone system played me those “we value your patience” announcements – bizarrely, cycling the recorded voices through a range of accents, genders, ages and moods. After some 20 minutes a human appeared. I explained that I wanted to place a next-day delivery order, and that I had not received my password reset email. “Oh yes,” said my handler, “I see your account. You are actually a consumer, so I will put you through to the consumer helpdesk” – and instantly I was back on hold.

Now, when I signed up as a customer, about ten website designs ago, I don’t remember being asked what kind of customer I was. As I recall, those 20 or more orders ago, I was making a small-scale speculative purchase of a simple bit of laptop memory, for my personal system. So if crucial.com ever did ask me, I would have said “home/private user”.

On this occasion, though, I wanted big fat server RAM and lots of it. But that was of no interest to the man in the Business to Business department, on its phones. The instant he thinks he’s got Joe Public on the line, that’s it: game over. No idea that consumers change status, no oversight of the amount I’ve spent with his company over the years, no inclination to help. Are you just a user? Goodbye then.

The cloud lesson that Amazon teaches us, which is that, overwhelmingly, business users experiment first using private single-person credentials and identity, evidently has no traction within Crucial’s call centre.

Of course, when this happens, all one can do as a business is make a commercial decision, which is whether one’s time is better spent sitting on hold with this type of customer service attitude, or whether it’s quicker, safer and cleaner to go find a competitor. In my case, I told the hapless lady in the consumer helpline this story: not that I expected much to come of it.

Perhaps, on the other hand, a blog about the general issue of consumers-as-irritant, might have a bit more impact. What do you think?

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5 Responses to “ How to lose a business customer on the web ”

  1. mr_chips Says:
    May 23rd, 2014 at 6:35 pm

    I deal with Crucial too and have never experienced segregation like that. That seems more like a case of bad customer service from one agent than failed policy.

    It is becoming more common though and it isn’t just in the IT sector.

    Fairly recently we had cause to enquire about a Radon Report for the house we are moving to on Wednesday.

    On this occasion we found the commercial team delivered where the domestic team failed.

    The kit was for domestic usage. So a phone call was made to the correct office of a Radon UK dealing with them.

    The house built in 2000 which is listed on royal mail databases was not on their version. They use Royal Mail databases to drive the forms on their website and seemingly internal reference systems.

    Evidently they are way out of date. So the agency had either not renewed it or simply neglected to load the updates on their system. Consequently the answer came back we can’t help because your house is not on our postcode database.

    So rather disgruntled by the unhelpful attitude I phoned the commercial office and spoke to a very helpful, exceedingly apologetic gentleman. He waived the report fees, took the time out of his work day and did the research himself. within hours we got the report we needed via email and in the post the next day.

    I believe customer service from one person was lacking in both our experiences. Unfortunately that issue is indeed enough to lose a lot of customers for Crucial.

    Rather more concerning due to the risks involved, how many people would not bother trying another number and getting the Radon report and test kit if needed after that kind of response over the phone?

     
  2. Mark Thompson Says:
    May 24th, 2014 at 7:10 am

    I was told by a senior manager leading a training event that she “hates” employees that provide a service that’s above and beyond because when the customer next requires the service they will have expectations that may not be met.

    I can see her logic but, if going above and beyond, letting the customer know the proper process for resolving the issue -or why they’d normally be left up sh1t creek by us- prevents future disappointment.

    I’m also careful never to give that manager anything other than the minimum level of service, lest one day I disappoint her by being less than brilliant.

    Point to the story?
    1. What we would regard as mediocre service is often demanded of employees.
    2. If contacting a manager to praise excellent service consider leaving out details of what the problem was or how it was fixed, particularly if guideline-bending was used. (waffling about ‘extensive knowledge’ and ‘professional manner’ should get the message across without unintended consequences).

     
  3. steve cassidy Says:
    May 25th, 2014 at 12:28 pm

    I love the postcode database. No, really: It makes it almost impossible to move a business into a currently disused building, and provide internet connectivity on day one of the move. In fact, month one – or quarter one, even – are a tough call, because the slaesmen at the front of the BT monolith want *utility bills as proof of residence*. It’s policy, innit.

     
  4. Antony h Says:
    May 29th, 2014 at 7:49 pm

    Thanks for deleting my critical post: glad to see that the principles of open free debate are alive and well in cassidys pie bunker

    Just posted a link to your (ha ha) article on facebook try taking that one down fat boy.

     
  5. davidcourt Says:
    May 30th, 2014 at 10:30 am

    Apologies Antony. We have to go through a lot of spam each day in order to keep the site clean, so unfortunately a few genuine posts get caught too. Feel free to post again, I will try keep an eye out.

     

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