playah hatah

I don’t understand what some of my customers are thinking when they try to negotiate with me. They purchase hosting services, for which we have a fairly clearly defined series of limits. One of these limits is that you can only specify x number of recipients in the To:, CC:, and BCC: fields when using our MTA as a relay. This is done to prevent people from abusing the service by using it as a mass mailer, and to prevent the same from inbound mail servers trynig to dumb mail to a bajillion addresses in one connection attempt.

We had a sales rep call us in a panic because their customer was unhappy they could not send an e-mail with over 3,500 recipients in it. Said customer was threatening to escalate to a VP if we didn’t change our systems to meet their needs. Said customer also put in writing the fact that they “would hate to have to look elsewhere for hosting services”, but that they would if forced to. Our sales rep was demanding we change our system to make the customer happy.

The customer pays $19.95/month for the hosting service, which is (understandably) on a shared platform. I asked the rep what the ramifications of this customer leaving were, and they said “we may lose the revenue”. The revenue amounts to $240.00/yr, plus GST for the gummint. To put it in perspective, the weighted costs of the time spent by the four people who had touched this issue so far exceeded that annual amount. My reaction is, and will continue to be, “I’m sorry you feel that way, we understand there are other hosts out there, and we understand you may have to change providers. I have a responsibility to my customer base as a whole, and cannot accommodate your request because changing those limits for you has the potential to adversely affect the rest of the base.”.

I also suggested to the rep that they offer the customer the mailing list services that we have for just this kind of thing. Apparently, the customer had a couple expletive deleteds, and complained that going that route would cost more money. No duh.

Long story short, explained to the rep we could not accommodate the customer request in the interests of protecting the platform (it wasn’t a request, I just called it that). The rep escalated. I spent almost 4 hours of my time drafting responses to senior management who the customer complained to. They agreed with me, but it took some time. This happens a lot.

Am I being non-customer-focused when I think this customer is being a twit? Am I the only one that can do the math on this one? Should I point out that if you buy a package of gum that says you get 7 pieces for a fixed price, you’re only going to get those seven pieces? Should I explain to the customer that threatening to take their business elsewhere is not going to sway me a whole lot in this particular case? I just don’t get it.

We have a tonne of customers who pay for a service which presents pretty decent value. They chose the service because it’s cost-effective, and meets the needs of the large majority of folks. We’re very up front in saying we put limits on the system, and what those limits are, because several thousand people use those system every day, and we don’t want to get put on a blacklist or worse.

Don’t threaten me to get your way, it won’t go very far. If you were paying a big nut every month, or I could make the change without (potentially) compromising the service, I’d seriously consider it. Buying a low-end service and asking for features that are expensive to deliver, and then threatening to bring it to senior managment if we don’t meet your demands (because yopu understand how to play my company) does not set us off on the right foot.

I know there are other providers out there. I also know the difference between good business, and bad business. I’d wish this customer luck with their new provider, but I followed up on this complaint, which was lodged with us one month ago today, but they’re still with us. I’m not gloating, because I know this customer was just playing us, because normally we bend or throw money at them for their “inconvenience”.

I guess spelling out what you get for what you pay isn’t enough.


3 thoughts on “playah hatah

  1. my view on this..

    there are always a certain customer base who are difficult. If those cutomer base are not generating enough income (and even thn.. sometimes.. u wonder..) you are better off with them going elsewhere.

    cuz one day it’s the CC: limit.. another it will be something else.. but there will always be something trivial that will make you lose valuable time and resources.. think of your OTHER customers by not giving in to his caprices 🙂

  2. And that’s pretty much the way we handle it. We have a commodity service that can only make money if it’s the same across the board. Unfortunately, my predecessors set precedents by modifying individual accounts, and reps have been conditioned to expect this type of customisation by client. It’s a painful experience for all, because our company is not good at saying “no”. I understand different customers have different needs, but for specialized services you go with a service that meets those specific needs, not one that meets general needs.

    Bad business at the start of the day is still bad business at the end. Unfortunately, our reps are comped on top line only, so have no appreciation for value statements. They just want the revenue, and will give away the farm for it, because the bottom line never factors in.

  3. You’re not the only one =) Being in the same business, this has come upon me only a few times and if I were threatened, though rare, I simply call the bluff. Pointing out the exceptional customer service they recieve for their “$19.95/mo” product usually shuts them up.

    With the competitive nature of web hosting/business, the customer has become increasingly (read: arrogantly) demanding with their needs. In my particular area, I’m ready to let them go on and find someone else rather than to cater to their every whim. The cost of the Web is CHEAP. We shouldn’t be forced to keep on compromising just to keep their business.

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