I work for a company that for years has had a reputation
for providing great support to our clients. Unfortunately,
due to some organizational and strategy changes made
within the corporation, our customer support operations
were terrible for several quarters at the end of last year.
We, in the field-based sales and presales teams, are now
paying the price for this when we visit our existing
customer base. Our competition has noticed this lapse
and is now maximizing its impact and throwing around
some classic FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt). Almost every
sales call now starts with us spending twenty or thirty
minutes dealing with the “your support stinks” objection.
Our support is now back to its former stellar condition,
but the questions are still coming up and our fact-based
responses and statistics make no difference.
What do you suggest?
Thanks for the question. That is certainly a frustrating
situation when one of your strengths misfires and is then
used against you in a sales situation. I think the key piece
of your question is the “fact-based responses and
statistics” phrase in the last sentence. Here are some
ideas for you.
1. Acknowledge. You do have to acknowledge that
there was a misstep by the company. I’d suggest you
frame it as a change that didn’t work out as expected
rather than blaming (or ‘throwing under the bus’ as
they say in US) a particular individual or department.
Even though the poor service may have been the
result of some bone-headed decision by a cost-
cutting new VP, it is better framed as “we were
attempting to provide even better service to our
customers and the changes just didn’t work out – so
we quickly saw that and reversed it”. The less
explanation the better, but you will have to take
some punishment as the visible face of the
company. I’d also say that the less you explain the
better and just acknowledge and accept.
2. Redirect. Now you need to make it a little personal
– particularly in the enterprise accounts where you
have a pre-existing relationship. You need the
customer to acknowledge that their problem was
with the company and not personally with you.
Approach this however is culturally best, but in
effect you are asking “but you’ve never had an issue
with me/us, we’ve always been here for you, right?”
3. Reflect. Look for something positive about the
period in question. For example you could reflect
upon the fact that historically your equipment has
had 100% uptime for the last two years and no
unplanned downtime at all since purchase. Also look
for recent support interactions that have been more
4. Move Forward. Now you can throw in a few facts.
“You’ve already noticed that we’ve dramatically
improved again, and we fully understand that we are
going to have to perform at this level for a while to
fully regain your trust. Just to make sure of that we’ve
added 100 new support personnel , 20 new level 3
technical engineers and ..”. You get the idea.
It is not unusual for the field to suffer because of corporate
mis-steps, however it's also fair to point out that you have
probably gained a lot over the years from the prior
reputation of your support (and maybe other) teams. SO
although you cannot dismiss it, yu are best to deal with it
personally, use some emotion to take the emotion out of the
customer statements, and then move on.
Good luck. It will get better.