By: Sam Richter
In my Know More! training, we teach that in business today, the little things mean everything. In a world of commoditization, it’s the little things done consistently over time that add up to the big sale. It’s the little things done by the salesperson and embedded into a company’s processes that generate long-term loyalty, oftentimes regardless of price. This concept holds true in sales, and also for account management and customer service.
Here’s proof that the little things really do matter.
Last summer we remodeled our kitchen. We bought all new Frigidaire appliances–the works–refrigerator, dual oven, microwave, and a fabulous cooktop stove. I like the Frigidaire brand and their products. You could call me a Fridgidaire advocate. I’ve been very happy with my stove; people comment how nice it is and how well it works. Like most stoves, on the control panel is a red light that tells you if the stove is on or not. Covering the red light is a piece of plastic that probably costs five cents.
During a recent cleaning, this piece of plastic broke off. Frigidaire makes a very sturdy product, and on my stove, this is really the only thing that could easily break. “No problem,” I thought. “This has got to be a rather common occurrence so I’ll just purchase a replacement part that will be mailed to me and it will take me less than 30 seconds to install.” Alas … it is not so simple.
I contacted the store where I bought the stove. They couldn’t find a part number. I contacted an authorized Frigidaire parts replacement company. They said they had the part and for $25, they would mail it to me. I thought that was fairly expensive for a five-cent part but I figured it was better than the duct tape I now have covering the hole in my new stove. So I ordered the part. It arrived a week later. I eagerly opened the package and instantly realized that it was the wrong part.
I then contacted two more authorized dealers and neither could find the part. Finally, I did that Google thing (I hear that’s a pretty powerful way to find information), got the right phone number, and contacted Frigidaire directly.
I was impressed. The phone tree was simple and after a few button pushes, I got to a human being. Although very friendly, she couldn’t help. She transferred me to another department; I was hoping it was going to be the five-cent plastic parts department but instead it was another customer service representative. She couldn’t help either.
I was then transferred to the actual parts department at Frigidaire and another very friendly women answered the phone. We both went to a website that had the parts schematic so we could together identify what I needed. I was able to describe the five-cent piece of plastic and where it was on the schematic but unfortunately, there was no part number. It doesn’t exist.
What was I supposed to do? The customer service representative had the answer.
“Mr. Richter, you’ll just need to purchase a new stove,” she said.
“Because I need to replace a five-cent part, I need to buy a new $900 stove?” I asked.
“That’s right. It happens a lot,” she added. “I receive many calls from customers looking to replace a simple part and if there is no part number, the only thing that can be done is to replace the entire unit.”
“We both agree that the part exists,” I asked. “Yes,” she said. “How about if you go down to the factory floor, find the part, and mail it to me” I said, thinking that would be an easy solution, and I could tell that she really wanted to help me. “I’m not allowed to do that,” she said. “Why?” I asked. “Because the five-cent piece of plastic doesn’t have a part number,” she stated.
Thus, they only way to fix this problem is to purchase a completely new $900 stove. Yes, that’s right, a $900 stove for a five-cent part. As you can imagine, I was a tad perturbed.
“I have good news,” the parts representative said. “Your stove is still covered by our one-year warranty; we’ll send someone out to replace the entire stove at 100% our expense.”
“Are you serious?” I asked.
“But there is bad news,” she continued. “This will probably happen again and your warranty runs out in one month. However, the good news is I can sell you an extended warranty at a discount.”
So, for $80, I purchased the extended warranty. Meaning, that every couple of years, I’ll probably be getting a new $900 Frigidaire cooktop at no charge, courtesy of Frigidaire.
So what’s the lesson?
This brand-name company does a great job getting the big things right; they produce a good product combined with good customer service. But they lost focus on the little things–both literally and figuratively.
From Frigidaire’s perspective, they did get more money out of me. I can’t imagine, however, that this is Frigidaire’s business strategy to get customers to purchase extended warranties. The reality is, Frigidaire is out a few hundred dollars when they come and install my new stove next week. And a few hundred more dollars when I get another one, most likely, in a couple of years when the same part breaks again.
But worst of all, by not focusing on the little things–by not Knowing More! about what’s truly important–Frigidaire now has a customer that is likely to shop and even recommend the competition. They lost a brand advocate. All because of a five-cent plastic part.
Is your company focusing on the little things?
What are the little things that you could be doing better to provide value and ensure relevance in your sales calls?
What little things are you doing to ensure your customers become loyal advocates?
Something to think about, now that you Know More!