How to avoid being on the “Most Hated Business” list

Mark Overbye headshot
Mark Overbye, CEO, Anthem Marine

By Mark Overbye

Try this right now. Whether on your computer keyboard or an imaginary one, type the word, “typewriter.” Notice the letters are all on the top line? This isn’t a coincidence, it’s intentional.

In 1873 E. Remington and Sons acquired the manufacturing rights to a new invention called the typewriter.  As the story goes, Remington’s engineers altered the final keyboard to help its sales team impress customers. Imagine a sales process where a salesperson says, “Check out this new communication device. It’s called a typewriter.  See how easy it is to operate? Just type out the word.”  The fire had been lit.

As I contemplated this blog topic I got a cosmic nudge, a catalog in the mail spotlighting another company doing it right. As I pulled the Blu Dot catalog out of my mailbox it opened to the back inside cover page, devoted entirely to ensuring the most positive customer experience.  

At the top of the page was a phone number in bold letters. Below that, “We employ real people who are real knowledgeable about all things Blu Dot. That’s right, actual humans. And guess what? They actually want to help you. Give us a call or email us.”

Let’s contrast this with another example, Xfinity. Just typing the name caused my blood pressure to rise. Spend all the time you like scouring their website, you won’t find a phone number.  But there’s a message from their Chief Experience Officer saying, “…you are priority number one. We have a dedicated team of employees across the country working hard every day to make sure we deliver the superior experience you deserve.” 

My BS meter is pegged at this point. What a frustrating, hollow claim when everything about Xfinity’s most widely used point of contact with their customers really says, “Don’t call us! We want to exasperate you beyond belief by not providing the quickest and easiest way to win your confidence and solve your problems.” 

In 2007 the American Customer Satisfaction Index survey rated Xfinity as having the worst customer satisfaction rating of any company or government agency in the country. By 2017 things hadn’t improved much, with many lists naming them “America’s Most Hated Company.” 

Today, they could still be on the cover of Slow Learners magazine. As an Xfinity customer who occasionally wants to discuss my account, various service options, internet capacities, sales packages, promotions and more, I’ve found their bots sadly equipped to discuss such intricacies. 

In addition, delayed on line chats with customer service reps simultaneously talking with numerous other customers is a sure formula for driving customers into the arms of competitors. Competitors who embrace the warmth and intelligence of doing business with human beings via voice while reaping the customer experience advantage(s).

Here’s another example. Let’s say I need to talk with my wife while I’m at the grocery store to find out whether she wants French vanilla or hazelnut coffee creamer. Here’s how the on line chat with a bot might go:

Me: Hey honey, do you prefer French vanilla or hazelnut creamer?

Her: Please hold, you are number two inline. Your expected wait is less than five minutes.

Me after five minutes: Do you prefer French vanilla or hazelnut creamer?

Her: May I have your name and could you rephrase your question? Virtual assistants understand simple questions best.

Me: Do you want French vanilla or hazelnut creamer?

Her: Please consider visiting my online forum as well as the Q+A section for the best result.

Me: Really?

Her: Please hold while I attend to other family members who are also on line.

Me: If you don’t answer I’m going to get you soy sauce for your coffee.

Her: Would you like a text message or email with a unique code to unlock your answer?

Me: See you in 30 minutes with soy sauce.

Yeah, nobody wants that.

Some key operational questions for you to consider about your business:

  1. Do you truly care about how your customers define you and your reputation? Whether you do is reflected in your points of contact. Please align your words and actions.
  2. Have you opened every possible path for your customers to learn about your solutions set and communicate effectively with you? The choices are myriad, consider how you’d like your friends to do work with your business.
  3. Do you understand that regardless of whether you are a B2B or B2C company you’re still doing business with human beings? Accordingly the selling/ buying experience is identical.
  4. Have you considered your customers’ point of view and perceive the choices they have in the market place? Business journals are full of David and Goliath stories.
  5. Are you more entrenched in selling your product or selling solutions that change lives?The wrong answer here will cost you your business.

It really isn’t that hard if you have the right perspective and desire to win customers. In 1873 Remington made it easy to embrace what they made. Their products and mindset were so simple and engaging it swept the world.  You could do the same.

Mark Overbye is the CEO of Anthem Marine, as well as the chairman of USA Waterski and Wake Sports Foundation. He is also the founder of Montara Boats and Gekko Sports.

One comment

  1. Great advice. This shows the importance of going over the top to cater to customers and exceed their expectations.

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