Will You Swipe this Page from Verizon’s Customer Service Playbook?

Image of Binder With Pages RemovedWhich cellular service do you use?

I’m on Verizon Wireless. The service is fine but sometimes the billing and customer service can feel like tooth extraction.

But, as we’ll discuss in a moment, they do teach us a thing or two about marketing.

I’ve been using the same cell for almost three years now so it’s clear I don’t worry about having a trendy phone. Hard to believe, eh? It IS possible to not bother keeping up with the Joneses.

My only data plan is text; no internet access or navigation. With a contract that has expired I’m on a month-to-month service basis (if I’m not mistaken).

Verizon now sends me offers that stress I have an upgrade due. These postal mailings are personalized with my first name on them and everything. They identify my old, crappy model phone and point me to the latest, shiny stuff.

Trust me, Verizon sends some of the prettiest little brochures and mailers to entice. Sometimes I flip through their sales pamphlets just to see how they’ve structured their offer.

They know how to compel their target buyer with snazzy photos and big calls to action.

Why does this matter?

Client monitoring

Verizon knows where I am in their sales cycle. They know my contract is up, my phone is outdated, and they want to retain me as a customer. They have processes in place to flag certain account activity to upsell me and so they don’t lose me to a competitor.

How are you monitoring your customer base? Do you know when it’s their birthday? How about when they last purchased from you? Do they open your emails and click on the links you provide?

If these are all unknowns, then you know what your homework assignment is for today.

Hold your customers by the hand

Sticking with the Verizon example, they’re smart. They are telling me exactly what to do next. Their mailers identify:

  • My exact account standing
  • Account “perks” that are due to me
  • Which number to dial or page to visit to claim the perks, what to ask for, and what to expect
  • How to take the next step
  • Incentives for the next step including discounts on new gear and promotional periods

What are you doing to make it easy for your customers to take the next step? If you’re making people guess what you want them to do then you’re going to struggle, my friend. Be bold and advise them on what the next best step is for them to take.

Even if that means you have to put on your scary sales hat and ask them directly to buy a great product that you offer.

They’ll thank you for it.

Follow-up

Knowing your client base and having something to sell (or upsell) them is all well and good. Connecting the dots between the two is what dreams are made of, right?

Synthesize what you know about your buyers and map out the sales life cycle. Which offers will you make, and when, to extend their account lifetime? How will you share that offer message with your buyer?

How will you bundle your services or products during promotional periods?

How often will you send your newsletter emails and follow-up postal mailers? Or will you simply pick up the phone and dial? What language will you use in your correspondence to trigger an action?

Every few weeks Verizon sends me beautiful brochures urging me to jump on the new tech bandwagon; they’re pretty convincing. Can you “do” convincing? (maybe not yet, and that’s okay, but you have to practice).

Do the work

Yes, market research is a pain.

Setting up systems and processes is dull work for most of us.

Yes, holding people by the hand and guiding them to the next phase of your sales cycle is tiresome work.

Yes, following-up is time consuming and you’d rather be doing work that directly impacts the bottom line.

Too bad. You need to do the dull, hard, boring work because that’s how you’ll succeed. Get these things right and maybe, just maybe, you’ll one day be raking it in like our dear friends at Verizon.

Have you ever used your junk mail for marketing inspiration?

Have you given thought to your follow-up process?

Photo: soulphoto


22 Responses to Will You Swipe this Page from Verizon’s Customer Service Playbook?
  1. marquita herald
    June 30, 2011 | 3:57 am

    Funny how my blood pressure instantly spiked with your reference to Verison and customer service … grrr! Anyway … great example of the importance of knowing and following up with our customers. When I think of this subject Amazon immediately comes to mind. They never cease to impress me with their service – unless Verizon Wireless :-( Thanks for the inspiration!

    • Jon
      July 2, 2011 | 1:55 pm

      Haha, yea I haven’t always had the best experience with their customer service (or billing). But some of their strategies are solid. Amazon and Zappos are both high caliber customer service companies.

  2. Oliver Tausend
    June 30, 2011 | 5:36 am

    Hi Jon,

    thanks for sharing another great marketing case study. You make some great points: The money and long-term success often lies in dull and repetitive tasks and not in fancy tools and stuff. When we know that, these tasks should be more fun also.

    Take care

    Oliver

    • Jon
      July 2, 2011 | 1:56 pm

      If only we could flip an internal switch to make those dull tasks more exciting! But the rewards are fun when they start rolling in :)

  3. Catarina
    June 30, 2011 | 6:02 am

    Good points Jon. Have the impression far too many companies fail to combine customer services and sales. Intelligent companies do what Verizon is doing while a lot of businesses miss the boat.

    Having said that I should add that it can go too far as well when it comes to offering customers new services. Especially since it’s not unusual that customers find that what they signed up to only benefit the company. That’s not how you keep customers long term.

    • Jon
      July 2, 2011 | 1:57 pm

      Right, there is a balance to keep. Often we as consumers don’t perform our due diligence and rush into a service package or product that serves the company more than the end user. Ah, and weaving customer service into sales is an art!

  4. John Ryan
    June 30, 2011 | 1:39 pm

    Hi Jon,
    Thanks for sharing. I do love a good customer service experience. And it does make you feel good when a company knows you and your situation, even if it is entirely automated. Nonetheless, to be able to do that with millions of customers is impressive. I suspect even more customization in the future as our information age continues to evolve.

    • Jon
      July 2, 2011 | 1:59 pm

      Welcome and thanks for your input, John.

      Agreed on the automated part. But after you reach a certain size (user base in the millions for sure) it just isn’t reasonable to expect one-on-one custom communication. Some attempt to reach out after the sale is nice and it’s smart strategy keeping us engaged with the brand and its offerings.

  5. Gregory McGuire
    June 30, 2011 | 2:06 pm

    Hi Jon,

    I like what you say about making it easy for our customers to take the next step. Most of the time, we don’t even need to put on our sales hats; just asking a question or making a suggestion will suffice.

    Lots of people are just looking for a little direction. By giving it to them we can be greatly rewarded. Thanks for sharing, Jon!

    Gregory

    • Jon
      July 2, 2011 | 2:01 pm

      Good point, Gregory. The sales hat isn’t always required as educating the customer and showing them what they can do next is all it takes most of the time. We all need a little direction from time to time!

  6. Jeanine Byers Hoag @ Dressing My Truth
    June 30, 2011 | 6:39 pm

    Jon, you have just changed the way I will look at those brochures that come in the mail. Especially the ones from phone companies.

    And I realize that I don’t know nearly enough about the people who are on my list or who have become my customers. I might like the boring work but I see from this post that it can make a huge difference to the bottom line.

    Jeanine

    • Jon
      July 2, 2011 | 2:02 pm

      Hey it’s great to have your views shaken up a bit, agreed? I’m glad you have a new perspective on “junk” mail :)

      It’s worth taking the time to learn more about whom we think we’ve already figured out.

  7. Gabriella - The Stepford Wife
    July 1, 2011 | 4:11 am

    Some people really do need to have their hands held when going through such a service – quite sad really. And then, you have verizon bombarding you with upgrade options…. will you give in eventually? Must admit, I’ll give them points for persistence.

    • Jon
      July 2, 2011 | 2:07 pm

      Persistence can pay off. I don’t know if it’s sad that people need a walk-through at times. If we spot a trend of our customers and clients failing to take the next step and we don’t stop the bleeding, so to speak, wouldn’t you agree it’s sad if we (as service providers) neglect to further assist them?

  8. Dr. Bob Clarke
    July 1, 2011 | 8:21 pm

    Hi Jon,

    I love this post! I also use Verizon WIreless and have always been impressed with their sales funnel. But you have broken it down even further and, best of all, caused us to look in the mirror to see if we measure up.

    Thanks for nudging me to take a look at my own marketing strategy!

    • Jon
      July 2, 2011 | 2:08 pm

      You’re welcome, Bob. Thanks for seeing this for what it is. We can learn so much from the big fish out there – no need to reinvent the wheel (most times).

  9. Tosin
    July 2, 2011 | 6:23 am

    Hey Jon,

    I like these words

    ‘You need to do the dull, hard, boring work because that’s how you’ll succeed.’

    Eventhough Verizon Wireless is not available in Nigeria, quite a lot of the networks here behave the same way. Just never thought of it the way you just outlined.

    The way they continually bring their products and services could be annoying, but it puts their images at the back of your mind, so that anytime you need the service you think of them first, depending on the network you are using.

    Nice to come here again, Jon!
    ~Tosin

    • Jon
      July 2, 2011 | 2:09 pm

      Thanks, Tosin. You bring up a good point: being front of mind. The more “touches” you perform, the more likely you are to be the “go to” source the next time your prospect/customer is in the market to buy.

  10. Hi Jon,

    These are requirements for any successful business. It’s certainly true that it’s much cheaper to retain old customers than to get new ones. You can’t expect people to come back if they don’t remember who you are, or how to find you. They might want to come back, but didn’t bookmark your website. So, the occasional email to old customers should pay off with future sales.

    Lou

    • Jon
      July 2, 2011 | 2:11 pm

      Great point, Lou. Even email is a great point of contact to keep an old customer, or lead, “warm.” Reminding your audience what they stand to benefit from doing business with you and how to engage you is an evergreen pursuit.

  11. Rowena Bolo
    July 7, 2011 | 3:45 am

    Hi Jon,

    I also loved this statement “You need to do the dull, hard, boring work because that’s how you’ll succeed.” What a great example you cited here. Especially for telecommunications company where competition is tough, Verizon is really doing a great job to ‘learn’ and understand their customers more. You are also so right about keeping that balance – doing the proper follow-up but not to the point of being annoying as people have commented.

    Good suggestion about checking out the junk mail for marketing inspiration ;-)…

    - Rowena

    • Jon
      July 8, 2011 | 9:21 am

      Hey Rowena – It’s making lemonade when life (or in this case the post office) gives you lemons. We should always be endeavoring to understand and better serve our audience.

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