Fostering loyalty

Matt_new mugEditor’s note: This is the second in a series of customer-service-related blogs I’ll write to wrap up 2009. Through a series of recent consumer experiences, I feel I’ve learned a number of things worth sharing about satisfying customers. Last week, I shared the incredible experience I had with a Disney employee who went above and beyond to exceed my expectations and ensure my satisfaction. This blog picks up where that one left off… There was stark contrast between how Disney’s “cast member” treated my situation and how the cell phone company and its representatives treated it. Rather than detail the story of what happened at the store and come across as though I’m whining or as though I somehow feel entitled to better treatment, let me just itemize the differences in how the two companies handled this situation.

• Disney’s employees understood that at 4 p.m. on a Sunday, they would have to rush to get me in a position to solve the problem, and they responded accordingly, even faster than I would have hoped. Upon hearing my circumstances, now just minutes after 5 p.m., the cell phone provider responded with a message of “I’m sorry, but we don’t start new contract purchases after 5 p.m.”

• Disney’s representative made my problem her problem and worked diligently to solve it. The cell-phone store’s representative passed me off to two different people before I landed back in her lap, wasting time for five different people (including her, myself and my Disney friend waiting patiently) and worked to frustrate the customer even further.

• Disney accommodated me with an employee vehicle and a personal escort to the store. The cell phone representative connected me with, first, an insurance representative and then, a customer service representative. Meanwhile, the phone she provided me was a display phone and still tethered to the metal cable that retracted into the display any time I gave it a little slack. I had to hold slack in the line with one hand and the phone with the other just to prevent battling with it during the conversation. I felt as though I wasn’t important enough to use a phone without such restrictions.

• Neither company really owed me anything; this was my problem. However, it’s interesting to note the difference in how I was treated based on my personal loyalty to these two companies. First, I had never been to Disney before. I had given the company my business for a grand total of two days in my entire life (both of the days preceding this event). They, however, treated me as though I had been a life-long customer. On the other hand, I have been a customer with the phone company for nearly 12 years. I have owned multiple phones, convinced my wife to go with that company’s service and bought into the “Simply Everything” plan. I went through their company for our home phone, Internet and a dish package. Still, they treated me as though they didn’t care that I was a current customer, let alone a customer for more than a decade.

• Disney didn’t use the situation to make me sign a contract to return the MDCE to its facility next year. But the phone company forced me to sign a two-year contract in order to replace my broken phone with a new one.

• Disney didn’t charge me for the gas, the mileage, the overtime, the extra customer service or anything else for its efforts. The phone company charged me an additional $18 “device upgrade activation fee.”

• I literally, as I type this, just hung up the phone with a Disney customer satisfaction survey, and they promised to attend to some small concerns yet today. The cell phone company surveyed me the day after I returned home from the MDCE, and after I voiced my distaste for their policies, I was promised a phone call from a live customer service rep within five business days. It has now been 10 business days, and I’m still waiting…

By the way, I used to be this phone company’s biggest fan. I told friends and family everything about how great this company was. I bragged about how cool my phone was. However, since I received the Simply Nothing plan in response to my needs (not to mention my loyalty), I tell a different story. Sad how quickly things change, but when you feel burned it’s difficult to remain loyal.

Next blog: Who needs a warranty?


  1. It is good to hear that company as big as Disney went out of there way for you, but that’s why you will go back there, given the opportunity.
    On the other hand the cell companies have such a huge pool of potential customers, that if the lose one or two, to bad service they may still pick up another 2 or 3 through one of there promotions, so to them they don’t care. Now having said that, that attitude comes from the top and works it’s way down. If the the company is truely a service oriented company, it’s policies and comittment are reflected all the way through to the front line employees. Further the general state of the the company is reflected through the front line employee. If the employee is happy to be there, a good chance that they will go to “extremes” to help you. If the employee is not happy at their position, and, or with the policies of the company, then they will do the absolute least amount of work possible.
    I think that the bigger the company is, weather it is a boat dealership, or a cell phone co., the bigger pool of people that they think they have to pick from, the less likely you are to get any service from. I think the smaller co know that their customers came to them through referals, freinds, family etc, and want to keep that customer as long as possible. the bigger companies that get their customers through promotions, just think that there is a endless supply of customers, so they are not service minded.
    I think that any Co. big or small must change their collective attitude towards the consumer, or the consumer will just pick up and move on. Even if it means still not being totally happy where they moved to, as long as they are happier.


  2. Great article! It truly amazes me how some companies just feel entitled to your business. My slogan in business has always been “be after the customers 100th purchase, not their first”. Treat them like life long customers and realize that is much more expensive to get new customers than it is to retain the ones you have. Make them feel like they bought something from you, that you didn’t “sell” them something. This is just a great reminder no matter if you are starting a new venture (as am I) or been in business for 50 years, you need to bring your customer first focus every day because bad news travels at lightspeed and good news at a snails pace. Great article to start the morning!

    Monty Kitchen – Big D Boat Club

  3. Matt,
    Good stuff. You really found a way to point out the difference between “the usual” and “the unusual.” Thanks

  4. Cell phone providers have a monopoly they feel, and they are as dealing with the utility company. With cell phones not being tied as the gas, electric, water or land phone service, they will eventually learn as the customer service progresses.

    You can change cell phone carriers easily, though you still get a carrier with a similar opinion.

    Disney cares and that is the point of your story Mort. We need to care too in the marine business. Some do and some don’t and the level from top to bottom must care to succeed, thus free market and failures we are seeing today. It is as Yamaha learned years ago, we only know about 10% of our unhappy customers and feel insulated in not knowing about the other 90%.


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