Small business wins again.
A new way of looking at things has emerged, and batteries are well and truly charged to maximum capacity. What was the change?
This week has seen a frustrated 20-year customer of Optus pull the plug. If you read my blog or tweets, I have had 12 months of hellish exposure to the telco giant, who was once a brand that I not only trusted, but I also felt the need to be an ambassador for.
We know companies change and evolve, but customer service needs to be a focus for everyone, no matter what size your business is.
My latest round with Optus was because in January I had a 7-month old phone that just didn't work. It cut out in every single conversation, froze when I tried to get off a call - so I had to turn off the phone every single time I called someone and wanted to hang up, and had a whole heap of other problems that I won't bore you with the details.
The problem is, at this stage, the telephone had already been in twice for repair. Both times it came back not repaired. I am not sure how many hours I spent talking to Optus and how much my blood levels rose in each and every conversation, but it was substantial. This time round though, I have timed it. In total - 18 hours and 2 minutes. That's how long Optus staff spent talking to me about the problem, but not fixing it.
I tweeted that I was unhappy. Surprise, someone got back to me within minutes. Amazing what social media is doing when it comes to response rates. That is well and good, but did any of these people actually do anything? No. They had no power and as much as I told them how many times I had been on the phone to them and still hadn't gotten my phone back from repair, they just said that they would get on to it. Finally, on Friday, I got my phone back. Unfortunately, the first conversation, it cut out, then the second one cut out also. Telstra is my only solution.
Now what has that done for my thoughts on Optus? Not only would I never have an Optus account under any circumstance again in my life, I will also be an Ambassador for others not having an Optus account. Afterall, they are a company that don't care. 5 months without a working mobile phone and they send back a half-repaired phone. Are they serious?
Being in small business, I am loathed to support a business that doesn't support me. I run my business on a mobile phone. Sure, I have office phones, but if a client really wants to get me, they ring my mobile. Unfortunately, my mobile phone doesn't ring. Nor does the newly repaired one (which means if someone is calling me from overseas, I don't get their calls and I have to pay to ring them back). I am yet again missing all my calls. I constantly promise my clients that I am getting my phone fixed, and now, I am sure the lack of trust in Optus is creating an unstirring with my clients with whether I can deliver a mobile phone that works. All my clients care about is me answering the phone when they call. With Optus, I cannot promise that.
Telstra is my only solution, even though for the next 12 months, I have to still pay off my plan on Optus. They are unfaltering with not allowing me to get out of my plan. It doesn't matter that in 12 months of the plan, I have had a working phone, not in repair for a mere 4 months.
Word of mouth marketing is as powerful as social networks. Having been a person who has friends all over the place, I had a client that is a very big corporate who so happened to ask me why they can never get me on my mobile. Once I explained, they said that they were about to sign with Optus for their entire telco account. Days later, they rung me and informed me that they decided to go with a more expensive, but more reliable Telstra as they can't afford for their multimillion dollar account to have the same problems. Do I feel like I have achieved something? The answer is no. Optus will not learn from this experience or any other for that matter. They are a big corporate who run a numbers game.
I look at this experience as a reinforcement that there is so much value in small business. If as a small business, one of your staff members gives bad service, or for that matter, you do, you can ring up and apologise and then do something about it. Afterall, we all make mistakes and we are all human.
If our products and services don't work, we can be 'human' about it. No customer is a number. They are people that we care about, more than our larger counterparts.
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