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Ulcers, Venting, and Why There’s Hope for the Small Fry

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Ulcers, Venting, and Why There’s Hope for the Small Fry

Instead of ranting, I usually stuff my feelings down deep where they can fester and assist in the development of a beautiful ulcer I’ve been working on for years.

But a recent incident has tipped the scales in favour of a ‘rant’ and all I can promise is that there is something positive to be learned from the next few paragraphs.

In December, I spoke with a client who needed a set of documents I didn’t have precedents for. It’s a complex area of law and quality precedents are only available through one supplier. I won’t name the organisation, but they are a multinational company operating in 90 countries with over 44 000 employees.

I looked for the product on their eStore and was disappointed to find that it was listed as POA. I entered my details and waited for a rep to contact me. The following afternoon I received a call. The sales representative then sent several emails offering discounts if I purchased multiple document bundles, and on 14th December I took her up on the two bundles at a 15% discount totalling around $1 200. I was told this price was only available until 18th December because of scheduled increases.

What should have followed, was confirmation of my business details, an invoice emailed, and access to the online precedents as soon as payment was made.

Instead, the following events occurred:

  • It took eight attempts for me to confirm they had my correct business details because they were having problems receiving ‘some’ of my emails.
  • Not having received an invoice, I followed up five days later.
  • On 21st December I received the invoice by email in the wrong business name.
  • It took four attempts (two emails and two voicemail messages) to explain they needed to correct the invoice and re-issue it.
  • While I waited a few more days, I looked more closely at the description on the invoice and realised the rep had quoted me on the wrong bundle.
  • I sent emails explaining the additional error and received a response apologising and promising to ‘get things sorted ASAP’.  That was the 8th January.
  • Not having heard anything for a couple of weeks, I left a voicemail on 23rd January explaining that I had sourced the second bundle elsewhere, and would only be proceeding with the first bundle as soon as they could send the invoice.
  • I knew the 15% discount would no longer apply, but the next day I received an email from the rep letting me know that the new price was $105 extra due to their annual increases.
  • I politely reminded the rep that I had been trying to purchase since 14th December and believed they could find the good grace to honour the initial price. They agreed, on the basis that I ‘may’ have been inconvenienced and also said they would prioritise access.
  • I received the invoice and ‘access’ two days later on 25th January … And oh, how I wish the story ended there.
  • Access was in the form of an email with a ‘getting started video’, but the link didn’t work.
  • I had to set up an account before accessing my precedents only to find that the platform wasn’t intuitive at all.
  • In fact, I was required to read a 38-page user guide (longer than the actual precedents) before I could work out where to start. And even then, I couldn’t open or save the precedents.
  • I worked with a lovely tech support person for over three hours, trying different search engines and approaches with no success.
  • By lunchtime, I couldn’t take anymore and said, “Seriously, can’t someone just email the precedents to me?” The response? “Oh … I suppose I could do that.”

Such a simple, low budget, low tech solution. So, the reason I’ve taken you on this journey that probably triggered all your PTSD symptoms from your own similar experiences, is to remind you that even the big guns get it wrong. Very wrong.

If you are a small fry operating in the shadows of big competitors, don’t lose hope in your ability to succeed.

  1. Woo your customers with good systems that work. Don’t be afraid of low tech; if it does the job; if the customer gets what they are after; then go for it.
  2. Test your systems to see what clients are experiencing and be certain the process operates the way you intended.
  3. Be what the big guys can’t; nimble, personal and accountable.

You may not be the biggest business in the industry, but endeavour to be the smartest. I’m sure I’m not the only consumer frustrated by large corporations and, like me, many would embrace a competitor who could simply deliver. No amount of marketing, flash websites and promises beats good old-fashioned customer service. Get that right, and you’ll do just fine.

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