Left Hand, Meet Right Hand

We have all experienced that feeling of bewilderment in situations wherein a company’s lack of coordination or baffling inefficiency disrupts our ability to transact a smooth and efficient sale; place an order; report a problem; etc.  Depending on one’s mood at the time, these circumstances can either be humorous at best – or incredibly maddening at the worst.

Recently, I placed an order with an ISP (who shall remain anonymous) to upgrade internet service at a remote location. After reviewing options, pricing and timing with a polite and (seemingly) knowledgeable customer service representative, a higher speed offering was chosen and all that was left to complete the transaction was to determine if the existing internet modem would work with the higher speed service. The CSR asked which make and model was currently in service. I told him and he informed me the existing modem was fine. I even looked on their website and saw the same information: the modem currently in use was sufficient for the next tier of speed.  This was good news for a couple of reasons: (1) the existing hardware was owned and I wasn’t keen on buying another modem or, worse yet, renting a new one for some ridiculous monthly price that would result in paying for the thing multiple times over across it’s useful life; and (2) as I previously mentioned, this was a remote location and I was hoping to avoid a trip if I could.

A few days after placing the order, a shiny, brand new modem arrived on my doorstep. What?!? Why? Certainly this was some auto-provisioning snafu or perhaps the vendor’s lame attempt at sneaking new equipment onto an unsuspecting customer, thereby collecting that irritating monthly rental fee. Well not this customer! After several call transfers and long hold times, I recounted the episode to a CSR who apologized, issued a return authorization and warned me that while the new modem rental charges would appear on my first bill, they would be credited off on a subsequent bill.

Product shipped; product returned; several phone calls placed; CSR’s updating records and comment screens; billing credits and adjustments issued; etc.  All inefficiencies resulting from a single, simple mistake.  But it gets better….

Ensuring Murphy’s Law remained sufficiently poignant, the new service was activated and – you guessed it – things did not work. Nothing. No signal. Nil. After several phone calls to technical support, the verdict was reached (and by now you certainly know what is coming next): the higher speed service will not work with the existing equipment (queue blood-curdling scream from the scariest horror film you’ve ever seen).  More phone calls; re-telling the story; call transfers; long hold times; more CSR updates to account records; more billing adjustments; etc.  More inefficiencies. More wasted time and resources.

Left hand, meet right hand.

For me, the most disturbing thing about all of this is the strong sense nothing was learned by this company throughout the whole miserable, messy ordeal. They will continue to have their sales people doing whatever they must to upgrade or sell; their customer service people doing whatever they can to solve problems; their technical support people fixing all that is broken; and alas, the poor billing folks trying – at the end of the day – to untangle it all.

And we wonder why our rates are so high?

How much inefficiency is built into your business? Are you learning from your mistakes? Are you constantly improving your processes? Do you hold cross-functional department meetings to ensure your left hand knows what your right hand is doing?  Do you listen to your customers? If you don’t, there may be more under the surface than you realize. And I can guarantee it is costing you margin, reputation or worse yet, customers.  

 Dave Wilson is COO and CFO of OnPR, Inc

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