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Saturday, December 10, 2011

Greedy account manager versus customer retention

If you've dealt with the customer service arm of any big business, you've probably seen this situation. It's the one where a company decides to save a couple of dollars right now while throwing away all future business from you because they chased you off.

This story is about the other side of that where the people involved don't go for that short-sighted thinking. It's also about what happens internally when that decision is made.

This happened to a friend of mine who was working support at a point when I was over in the "meta-support" team. I still kept tabs on what was happening on the support side of the world, and he would share interesting or just plain broken tickets as he found them. This was one of them.

Someone opened a ticket to say the server was not responding. Some tech immediately marked it as if the work was done. This caused it to disappear into a dormant status where it would not be seen by anyone. It sat and rotted like this for some hours until the customer finally posted another message to it, which popped it back to the active queue.

At this point, my friend noticed the now-active ticket and actually took care of it. This brought things back up, but far too much time had elapsed. The customer was rightly incensed for the mishandling of their problem.

That's when he got an instant message popup from the original tech who had mishandled it:

Thanks for getting (ticket number). I closed the wrong ticket.

The whole "wrong ticket" thing is something I'll talk about in another post. Suffice it to say that this guy had way too much on his plate that day, and he was showboating. He did it to himself, in other words.

I recommended that my friend give the customer the "platinum" level monitoring. My logic was simple enough: if they had that level of service before, monitoring on our side would have caught it. Further, it would have been obvious that the ticket was hiding or "stuck" since the monitoring alert would have persisted the whole time.

My friend concurred and gave it to them. He just added the service to their server and turned on monitoring of a few ports. This happened without going to billing, so it was free. That's what we intended. We screwed up, so we're going to make it right without penalizing the customer any further.

The next morning, there was hell to pay. My friend got a nastygram from this customer's account manager. Apparently, this guy was coming up on an upgrade or renewal cycle of some kind, and she missed out on 40 dollars because we gave him the platinum monitoring.

She had no concept of how a pissed-off customer might cut and run. It would have cost us far more than $40 in churn and acquisition of a replacement customer. However, that kind of money doesn't affect her, so she whined about it like a little baby. Talk about greed!

One of our friends happened to be visiting her (remote) office that week, so we told him to drop $40 on her desk. We'd pay him back when he got home. That way, she could shut up about it.

What you should take away from this is that not everybody at a big service-oriented company is out to get you. A few of the folks there do actually see the big picture and realize that you can win the battle and lose the war. They will do the right thing even if it costs theoretical dollars on a balance sheet, because your continued business more than covers it.

What's really unfortunate here is that nobody spotted this AM's broken attitude and either fixed it or removed her from the equation.

For all I know, she's probably still out there harming the company's long-term prospects -- forty dollars at a time.

December 13, 2011: This post has an update.