I had the worst customer experience of my life recently – with a telecom. And this tracks what I’m hearing about from friends and colleagues. In fact, every time I’ve shared my terrible experience with someone, they’ve told me about their own terrible experience. It’s not without cost to the companies.

Bad customer experiences cost organizations around the world $3.7 trillion annually, according to recent research by the experience management company Qualtrics.

And more than ever, providing a positive customer experience is not just a good idea, it’s critical. The customer experience is at the heart of business viability and success. And for entrepreneurial companies, it is a huge opportunity.

There’s so much evidence out there that when companies do a good job of customer experience, their acquisition costs plummet, and their retention rates go up. Not to mention the fact that staff are happier because they tend to be treated better by customers, so staff retention rates go up too. In my years of experience as a business consultant, what I’ve seen time and again, is that when a company focuses on customer service, it becomes healthier and more sustainable both culturally and financially.

But a good customer experience is certainly not what I had. In my case, the match up was between a slow and stodgy Big Company (aka “Big Co”) and a David-like scrappy start-up (aka “Scrappy”). Read on.

My family has an organic peach farm on the outskirts of a small town in Central California. We’re at the end of the line for DSL internet service, and coverage has been spotty for years. Satellite options were few and expensive. I had looked at Scrappy a couple years back, but they didn’t have service to our location yet. So, I gave it one more try with Big Co. Following is a record of the text exchanges and calls that I had with them about a service call to fix the situation.

Friday, 3:28 PMHi, it’s Big Co. Sorry you’re having trouble. Tech will arrive tomorrow between 12PM-4PM.

Saturday, 9:01 AMGood morning! Our tech is scheduled to arrive today between 12PM-4PM. If your service is working, reply FIXED to cancel. To reschedule, reply CHANGE.

Saturday, 1:01 PMThanks for waiting. Reply STATUS at any point to see the tech’s most up-to-date arrival time. They’ll call you when they’re on the way.

STATUS – Right now it looks like our tech should be there between 12PM-5PM

At this point, I was at the property, doing some work in the back, occasionally popping my head into the main driveway. Never more than about 15 seconds away. Note the time on the next text.

Saturday, 3:10 PMHi it’s Big Co. It looks like we missed your appointment. If you’d like to reschedule, reply CHANGE

I didn’t receive the call referenced in the above text. Why say you’re going to call and then not? So, I phoned Big Co’s customer service. After navigating the phone system, and waiting about ten minutes, I spoke to someone in another country who told me that according to their records, the tech had come to my address, but left when he found no one there.

It is possible the tech drove in, and when he didn’t see me sitting in the driveway waiting (I wasn’t because I was nearby, and the text at 1:01 PM had said he would call before arriving), he just took off. He certainly didn’t call, get out of his truck, or in any way try to fix the issue.

I asked to speak to a supervisor, and about ten minutes later shared my frustration with a customer service manager. I explained that I had made a special trip to the farm to deal with the problem, and asked that they send the tech back. After all, he couldn’t be far away at that point. But apparently, the tech was now done for the day — he had clocked out early. Aha, I thought. Apologies were forthcoming, but that didn’t do much to improve my mood. I opted to reschedule.

We confirm that your appointment is now on next Friday. Our tech is scheduled to arrive between 8AM-12PM. Bye for now – Big Co

I then reached out to Scrappy, to see whether their coverage might have changed in the interim. I figured it was worth a try.

A local sales rep answered the phone on the second ring and said, “Hi George. It’s great to hear from you. I see we last spoke about two years ago. How can I help you today?” What a difference.

I said that I was still having trouble with my existing internet service, and wanted to know if they were now able to provide service to my area. In a surprisingly short amount of a time, much less than a minute, the Scrappy rep pulled up a map, identified upgrades they had made in the area, and confirmed they could have us up and running as soon as we could arrange a service call. We went over options, and scheduled the install for the following Saturday. This took maybe ten minutes from start to finish.

To hedge my bets, pending getting things going with Scrappy, I figured I should keep my new appointment with Big Co. Here’s how that went:

Wednesday, 8:01 PMHi, it’s Big Co again. Looking forward to seeing you on Friday between 8AM-12PM.

So, we can better assist you please text KEEP to confirm your appt. CHANGE to reschedule, or FIXED if your problem is resolved.

I selected KEEP.

Thanks for confirming. We’ll see you then. Please make sure someone at least 18 is available. Thanks, Big Co.

Friday, 10:21 AMThanks for waiting. Reply STATUS at any point to see the tech’s most up-to-date arrival time. They’ll call you when they’re on the way.

STATUS —  Right now, it looks like our tech should be there between 11am-11:30am

Friday, 12:52PMSTATUS. We’re sorry but there’s no new information. Need to reschedule? Just reply CHANGE.

Another no show. Another lack of proactive communication. Clearly, a lack of concern for a long-standing customer.

The next day, Scrappy arrived slightly before the scheduled time, and efficiently installed our new service.

We’ve never had better internet service anywhere, and it only got better when Scrappy contacted me a few months later to suggest a change that both increased our speeds and lowered the monthly cost. Who does that? Companies that want to earn and keep your business.

As for Big Co? I didn’t need to reschedule, and I was past wanting to vent my frustration. I now had excellent service from a local company that understands that the customer experience is everything. All I had to do was go into my Big Co account and cancel the service. That felt good.

Have you had a great customer service experience lately that’s prompted you to change companies?

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