I have invited back customer service experts Chip Bell and John R. Patterson, authors of Take Their Breath Away: How Imaginative Service Creates Devoted Customers. Their most recent insights show how fear can drive you to pursue any last dollar at the sake of customer relationships:

CB/JRP: We take a local newspaper. For the last two weeks we’ve gotten phone calls on both land lines every few hours. If we didn’t answer the phone in two rings, when we did answer it, there was total silence. When we called back, we got a far away call center operator asking us to subscribe to the local newspaper.

“Why do you hang up after two rings,” we asked. “That’s not us,” the operator replied. “It’s the computer. If you don’t answer quickly, it automatically goes to the next number. “But, we already take your newspaper,” we persisted. “Why do you keep calling us several times a day?” “Oh,” she said defensively, “The computer calls everyone in the phone book.” Our final answer: “One more call and we’ll cancel our subscription!”

We live in challenging economic times. Many industries (like newspapers) are struggling to stay afloat. Don’t lose your good customers because your fear makes you do stupid things. Even if you feel scared, help your customers experience your confidence, not your anxiety.


CR: There are so many lessons here, I barely know where to begin. As Chip and John point out, fear can impair your judgment. It can also really piss off loyal customers. Do you know how John and Chip feel, as loyal newspaper subscribers, for the newspaper to not even recognize their loyalty? Customers are your most important asset. Make sure that you let them know they are valued and perhaps try to upsell them on a related product or service. And definitely don’t slap them in the face with a general solicitation that proves you have no grasp over who your customer is!