Simon Bailey article
Ladies and gentlemen, I’ve been “married” to my smartphone provider ever since I first purchased my cellphone. I loved them and have upgraded whenever they had something new on the market. In fact, my cellphone plan is so old that they’ve grandfathered all of my cool benefits from the old plan into the new one. Totally awesome, right? Well, almost. That is, until I lost my phone.

Marketing can sell the dream, but customer service delivers a nightmare. According to The Conference Board, which recently surveyed 1,000 CEOs, presidents, and chairmen, the No.1 opportunity that keeps these leaders up at night is human capital development; No.2 is customer relationships. Are you surprised? I am not.

While traveling in Washington, D.C., somewhere between the hotel and the airport my phone went MIA (missing in action). It was truly a fingernails on a chalkboard moment. I cringed and thought to myself, what in the H-E-double-hockey-sticks happened to my phone? I’ve never lost my phone in broad daylight before. Well, while at the Regan National Airport, I feverishly started looking for a pay phone and found one near the Delta Air Lines TSA line.

First, I called my smartphone provider, and they told me that I could suspend my service temporarily. Second, my phone was turned off, which meant that I would no longer be able to use the Find My iPhone app. I told my provider that my phone was insured, and they proceeded to transfer me to a third-party company that handles insurance claims. Here is where the wheels fell off the wagon, and I experienced three customer service killers that you won’t want to repeat in your business.

Killer No. 1: Before a problem is solved, ask the customer to take a survey.

Marketing is forever being judged by metrics, and I totally get that. But would you believe that as they were transferring me over to the third-party company, which shall remain nameless for now, they put a supervisor on the phone to see if I had a good experience? I am not making this up. And then to add injury to insult, they asked, if I were to take a survey, would I recommend their service? Well, let’s see. You’ve jammed me up in a corner, testing my love for your brand, so I guess the answer is yes for now.

They should’ve asked what they could do to ensure that the issue was resolved and not have asked me to take some bonehead survey so that they could meet their KPI (key performance indicators) and service goals. Get things in the correct order; solve the problem and then ask for feedback.

Killer No. 2: Marketing shouldn’t worry about teaching service standards internally or to third-party partners.

After telling my story again, the representative said that my phone would be shipped out in one to two business days. I said, perfect. I was heading to San Francisco and would be reunited with my second wife—my smartphone—once I arrived. Well, two days later and no smartphone, no phone call, and no email explaining what happened. I felt like the guy who asks a girl to dance, and she says to wait right where you are and never comes back.

Now, I am flying out to Dallas from San Francisco, and I am disappointed. I call the company from Dallas to ask what happened. The representative starts going through a dissertation about how the warehouse ran out of phones, and my order was not processed. I then ask for his manager and suggest to him that I could go to the local retail store in Dallas and pick up a replacement. All he had to do was put it in the system and handle it on his end. His reply was no, stating that “We don’t operate that way.”

He should’ve given me several options instead of being a roadblock to my productivity. He also should have offered to provide a temporary phone for me while my new one was in transit. But, no, I felt he just wanted to get me off the phone as fast as possible.

Killer No. 3: Whether you have an answer or not, don’t keep the customer in the loop.

The representative said that he was putting the order in again himself and that I would have my phone in one to two days. Okay, great. I arrived at my next city, Detroit, MI, and still no phone. By this time, it’s a week later, and I am phoneless in Detroit. I am on an unplanned digital vacation and not feeling the love.

I called from a landline to my smartphone company, and a young lady by the name of Penny answered the phone. She empathized with my pain and proceeded to tell me that she would have to transfer me back over to their third-party company. She couldn’t do anything for me, but I would be receiving a survey that was based on how she had handled my call. I realized in that very moment that she was only doing her job and totally didn’t get it.

Meanwhile, her company is spending hundreds of millions of dollars in celebrity endorsements touting their superior service, but in reality, they can’t take care of a 15-year loyal customer. I always have paid my bills, and over the year have added three additional cellphone numbers for my bride and children. I am committed to them, but I question if they really are committed to me. Why? They never emailed me or called my alternate cellphone with an update. I was left in the dark.

In the future, if you are unable to fulfill your promise to your customers, then let them know and reset their expectations. This will go a long way to maintaining a happy customer marriage. Whatever you did to market your way into my heart, then you have to do the same to keep me loyal to you.

Now, I might start exploring other smartphone companies because this has left a bad taste in my mouth. There are 25,000 people that follow me in my various social media channels. I wonder what they will think of this experience. Let me know your thoughts by tweeting #badcustomerservice.

You are brilliant, and I am sure that you have a better approach to ensure that your good marketing is aligned with great service.

For more information on Simon T. Bailey, visit

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Post comment