How to lose a customer

Here's an example of how a genuinely enthusiastic, strongly focused and well motivated sales person can lose a customer. Or several of them.

I got a new phone and gave my one-year-old E71 to my son, and figured out that I need to get a flat-rate mobile 3G/GPRS data contract for him, because otherwise using packet data is prohibitively expensive - and using packet data is pretty much the point in having an E71. Since I had half an hour to spare and was driving past the Sello mall, I stopped by at the Elisa shop, which handles the sales also for their Saunalahti-branded phone subscriptions.

There's a queue system where customers take a number slip when they enter. I had about 5 customers in front of me. Not too bad, usually this takes not more than 10 minutes.

But the lady at customer service was trying to sell the Elisa home security solution, along with their ADSL pack, and including motion-sensitive cameras, to a reluctant customer. The sales person had apparently been very recently to a technical and motivational training on selling these subscriptions, because she was just flooding the unfortunate customer with "you'll get the maximum rate ADSL available in your area" and "it is a huge relief when you can view from your office what goes on at your home" and even the TV-Shop style "and that's not all, we'll also throw in a mobile data pack with 15 megabit dongle..."

The trouble was, the customer clearly wasn't very interested. She was glancing this way and that, looking for a way to escape. A bigger trouble was that there were five other customers waiting, slowly gathering steam and fuming because they had some simple, trivial errands to do - opening a new phone subscription, asking about an invoice, or, like me, adding some new services to their subscriptions. And the sales rant went on and on. There was no pause. There was no beginning, and no end. It just went on, without listening to the customer or observing anyone else in the vicinity. The other customers who had smaller queue numbers than me were making increasingly loud an impolite remarks about why they have to wait - and worse: listen to the sales rant whose one-way high-volume flood filled the small shop and was apparently embarrassing everyone.

After waiting for about 10 minutes I walked to the Sonera shop across the aisle at the mall, got a waiting ticket, and five minutes later, I had got a new contract with a packet data agreement, a new SIM, and ordered transferring my son's number to Sonera in a couple of days. I peeked inside the Elisa shop. The customer unwilling to buy the home surveillance pack had apparently found an excuse to get away, other sales persons had finally jumped in to help, and my queue number was almost there. In a few minutes I might have been getting served. The other fuming customers before me were also gone, except the one who was being dealt with at the counter.

The next day someone from Saunalahti called me and asked why I was changing operator and if I was willing to get a new offer and reconsider. I wasn't. I wish they would follow up their own staff before losing subscriptions, not following up customers after losing subscriptions.

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