Would it kill you to listen?


A few weeks ago, we decided to look into switching mobile phone providers. We started by contacting one of the large carriers and asking for a quote. In the initial request, we told them how many minutes and data plans we needed, plus the model of phone that would be acceptable. We also included a copy of our current bill for reference. But when they sent us the quote, it was completely wrong. The number of phones, minutes, etc. were all incorrect, and they used a different phone than we asked for.

Maybe this was an honest mistake, we figured. So we spoke to the sales rep, and got two more quotes from him. Each was wrong in some obvious but different way. After several rounds of this, we still didn’t have a valid quote. So we moved on to the next provider, and again sent in a list of what we needed and a copy of the current bill. And they managed to screw up the quote just as badly as the first one. Apparently, neither provider can be bothered with actually looking at what they’re sending prospective clients to see, for example, if the number of phones matches how many the company says they need.

This obviously comes down to a communications failure: the sales reps simply don’t listen to what you’re saying, no matter how clearly you express it. Frankly, I don’t know where they got our quotes from. Maybe they have a random quote generator that plugs in arbitrary numbers for each product you ask about. Surely that’s easier and more efficient than just quoting the customer on the specific items they asked for, right? The really amusing part is this: several times in this mobile phone experience, one of my colleagues said that the phone carriers had misquoted us in the hopes that we wouldn’t notice and would sign up anyway. And I think my colleague is right.

What a great strategy for winning new clients: ignore what they tell you and try to trick them into buying the wrong thing. Maybe the customer will blame the lack of phone service for 70% of their staff on the old carrier, anyway. But for those of us who actually want to acquire and retain customers, here’s a better idea: listen to what prospects say, and make sure that what you’re giving them makes sense.