Wal-Mart to Online Customers: “Don’t Call Us – Ever!”

no_phone1.jpg  According to a story from NPR, Wal-Mart doesn’t want it’s online customers calling them so much.  So they removed the customer service phone number from their website and want customers to use the online help instead.  This sounds a bit like Sprint’s firing of those “pesky” customers who called Customer Service too often.

I don’t have the details on why Wal-Mart decided to do this, but I imagine it was a cost-savings decision.  According to NSP Strategist, Sprint’s “pesky” customers where costing them $750 per month each. 

At some point a business needs to find out which customers it can service most effectively.  If you are thinking of firing customers or taking away support options, please ask youself these questions before you do:

  1. Why are these customers calling so often?  Do you have a real problem with your products/services that is causing them to call?  Many customers won’t call, they will just switch to your competitor. 
  2. Do you have a communications problem?  Maybe you need to find a better way to communicate the information that is continually requested.
  3. Who are these customers?  Are they profitable?  Could they be profitable?
  4. Are there other options you could provide?  What do your competitors provide?
  5. What is the impact of negative word-of-mouth going to be?  What is your strategy to minimize it?  Here is an interesting case of negative word-of-mouth where the court has encouraged consumers to air grievances online.

One would have to venture that both Wal-Mart and Sprint have some idea of what is most valuable to customers, and the role that customer support has in that value equation.  If they really don’t know, they will learn quickly from these actions if they choose to – but at what cost?  For smaller businesses who may not have that level of insight, before you make a decsion to cut support you need to know the answers to the questions listed above.  You need to know what customers value, and which customers are most valuable to you.

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