Unfortunately, things sometimes go wrong. While all the intentions are good and the effort solid, sometimes, a mistake will happen. Giving customer service excuses probably has some value, but not nearly as much as listening.
Many would probably quickly feel like excuses and listening can turn into a slippery slope. Indeed, they can, but doing absolutely nothing will not help the situation.
I’ve been using the same company for heating oil for 21 years. Last year, for the first time, they invited me enter a volume purchase agreement. When I commit to a number of gallons for the heating season, I get to lock in at a price per gallon, sounds a little risky, but properly negotiated, wise.
Last year I won, I got a great price per gallon and it really helped keep my expenses down. Fantastic, I loved my vendor—until I didn’t.
This year it took them four additional months to calculate my price per gallon, and the deal they offered, well, it wasn’t much of a deal. When I politely expressed my reservation and desire to refuse their offer it didn’t seem to matter.
Essentially, I was told that it was a corporate decision and there was nothing my local representative could do. My immediately reaction was, “I’ve been a customer for more than 20 years.” The response, “I can see that on your record, sorry.”
Let’s get this straight, for more than 20 years I paid probably on average, at least, without looking it up $3,000.00 per heating season. Across twenty years, that is $60,000, and I think I’m being very conservation in my estimate.
Customer Service Excuses
What is the point? My vendor had plenty of excuses. I spoke with them on the telephone several times. I expressed my desire to continue our relationship and was generous and kind about our shared commitment. They empathized about the situation.
My thought is that somewhere in “corporate” wherever that is, there is someone with an expensive calculator or a spreadsheet that has determined the price of contracts. Where they have failed, in my opinion, is to look closely at the lifetime value. Perhaps more importantly, I believe that they weren’t listening. Customer service excuses are often useless.
They did however call me after the terrible storm hit the Houston, Texas area. Their message was that they were looking out for me to beat rising prices, perhaps I would want to reconsider the contract. I negotiated a one-time delivery, at a reduced out-of-contract price. My local representative had the power to work with me to make that happen.
It’s a shame about the contract. I’m going to miss them.
Dennis E. Gilbert is a business consultant, speaker (CSPTM), and corporate trainer that specializes in helping businesses and individuals accelerate their leadership, their team, and their success. He is a five-time author and some of his work includes, #CustServ The Customer Service Culture, and Forgotten Respect, Navigating A Multigenerational Workforce. Reach him through his website at Dennis-Gilbert.com or by calling +1 646.546.5553.