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Mila D'Antonio | February 18, 2013

Proactive Deception Versus Proactive Customer Service

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To quote Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist, "'Trust is the new black."

But in these days where making the bond between brands and their customers is essential to economic prosperity, it seems like some companies are still donning yesterday's trends of relying on deceptive practices by not proactively reaching out to customers to help them make informed decisions.

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Proactive practices would help build a culture of trustability--a term Don Peppers and Martha Rogers, Ph.D., coined in their book Extreme Trust: Honesty as a Competitive Advantage. They describe it as "Doing things right; doing the right thing; proactively."

Yesterday, however, when I visited my local Verizon Wireless store to inquire about my eligibility to upgrade my iPhone, I discovered a hidden world of deceptive, covert practices, possibly set up with the intent not to alert customers about pricing discounts or changes in plans.

When the manager looked up my plan details, he immediately saw that my unlimited data plan featured new reduced pricing in recent months. With the new plan, I would save $20 per month. As the manager explained, he liked to proactively notify customers about changes in plans to help them get the best value and to save money. Great, but I only enter my Verizon store maybe once every year so little good that does me on a daily basis. He went on to tell me that he also discovered that the woman who he waited on before me was over-paying $250 per month toward her cell phone bill for the past few years and he managed to reduce her monthly expenses to $130.

I commented that Verizon Wireless customer service should have sent me an email or SMS, alerting me of the new change in plan and should have analyzed the other customer's bill to correlate usage versus monthly payments to help reduce her bill and alert her. The manager laughed out loud at that remark! He asked, why do you think they don't notify customers? Because it's extra revenue for the company. I told him how such a mentality is short sighted, and that proactively reaching out to customers about pricing changes helps to build bonds and in the long run, maintain a loyal customer base. He seemed to get it, but I'm not sure about Verizon's customer service.

As Executive Editor Tom Hoffman discusses, it's essential for companies to proactively reach out to customers when it matters most, like many organizations successfully did with their customers during the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. But proactive service is a daily, monthly, and year-round practice that must be extolled by the c-level, taught by management, and engrained in all employees--especially in the age of social media and heightened customer expectations.

Companies that stick their fingers in their ears and ignore the rules of proactive service, aren't doing anyone any favors.

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