My girlfriend uses Sprint for her mobile plans (don’t judge). Her agreement was up and it was time to renew the four lines. She asked me to come along for moral support—you know that renewing a cell phone contract has now become about as pleasant as buying a car or selecting a cable and Internet provider. And the abhorrent experience at Sprint did not disappoint and offered a great reinforcing lesson for the travel industry.
We had already looked at Verizon and AT&T and to be honest, most of the deals and products were within a few dollars of each other. Apple does not discount the iPhones and gone are the days of the carriers subsidizing the phones. In a sense, it is pretty easy to compare apples to apples and figure out the best deal. Now, the decision was down to signal strength and customer service. With the signal strength being essentially the same, we needed to look at customer service. Does this sound vaguely familiar to you? It should. With all the travel products being sold, the one differentiator between our competitor and us is the customer experience. Don’t blow it.
When she went into the local Sprint store to inquire about the options—moving to another carrier, remaining with Sprint (which was her inclination), the salesperson was very fast to approach us (good move), greeted us politely (another good move), ushered us to his workstation where he said he would work through it all (yet another good move). And then it went downhill. Apparently prior to our arrival, he was playing a video game on his phone and while trying to talk to us, he was tapping on his phone screen to maintain the game.
Hey, look at me! Remember, I am the customer!
He explained the new plans and cost. When she asked about moving to a different carrier and what was needed, she was told she would not be able to do that.
The salesperson explained that since the phones were “leased” and not “leased with an option to buy” that the current monthly lease rate would continue…get this….indefinitely. Now she’s an attorney and immediately went into lawyer-mode and asked him how that would hold up in court. He explained that it was Sprint’s policy. When asked directly, “what happens if the service is terminated and the phones are not returned?” After a puzzled look, he said there would be a $60 per phone charge.
Simple enough. Why not just say that up front rather than trying to strong-arm a long-standing client?
Anyhow, to Sprint’s detriment, the salesperson’s game playing—both literally and figuratively just cost them a $400/month customer who had been with them for 12 years. Do the math–$57,000. Congratulations to Verizon, you are now the cell carrier of choice!
And while the specifics of this have very little to do with travel, the larger picture has everything to do with travel. A great deal of our business is representing other people’s products. In the end, we do not have a lot of control over the quality of the food on the ship, the cleanliness of the hallway in the resort, the bumpy ride from the airport, or the long lines to gain admission to a must-see attraction. What we do have is control over the customer experience while they are dealing with our agency.
If we were solidly focusing on the customer experience, we could steer them towards ships that had more favorable food reviews, or better yet one that we had personally sailed on and could offer firsthand information. We would suggest that for a few dollars more, there is a higher class of resort where they are focused on details. Absent paving the roadways, we can advise them of the bumpy road, or perhaps ask if they want a private car transfer. We cannot control the lines, but we can tell them the best times to go to minimize them or perhaps based on our relationship with the hotel they can somehow sneak in before the masses.
All of these are possible and all of them are what your customers are paying you to do for them whether it be through fees or commissions. We are in the customer service business—period. Travel is incidental and it does not matter if we are selling widgets, gizmos, travel, or cell phone plans. If we slip up on the service, you can guarantee that you will not retain your clients.
Sprint lost one of theirs. Want to keep yours? Putting down the video game would be an excellent start!