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Cultivating Positive Relationships Customer Service General Marketing Opinion

Bait-and-switch prospecting taints customer service expectations

When a company courting you starts out with a bait-and-switch pitch to get your business, chances are excellent that their customer service leaves much to be desired as well. It’s the epitome of inaccurate and incomplete information.

I recently came upon a new and somewhat compelling nutritional program article. Interested, I filled out a profile to get a copy of their proposed, customized diet guide. At the end of the profile was a typical fill-in-the-blank name and email request. Further down on the page was their money pitch. Given that I didn’t see anything requiring a credit card or other financial commitment in the profile, I submitted and awaited my email.

When it came, the only “deliverable” was a form to fill out with a credit card to get my personalized profile. I deleted their email, and vowed not to give them a cent. I’ll likely start seeing their emails trying to entice me to move forward. They can fuggedaboutit!

Here’s the rub: By doing some research around the program’s tenets, I already have effectively seen what is of value—and can proceed efficiently on my own with appropriate food choices without spending one red cent with them. If, instead of baiting-and-switching, they actually had provided an initial profile detailing options and offers, I might have made an initial investment to get further insights and ideas.

This is, of course, commonplace. It’s also uncommonly stupid. Right out of the gate, the company lost any chance of establishing trust and a business relationship with me.

In stark contrast, I began a program back in January that offered initial free guidance and direction. While it was fairly straightforward and simple, there was no hook hanging ominously around the information provided. There were pay-to-play offers for those who wanted to delve deeper or learn more. While I wasn’t one of them, I at least felt treated fairly and squarely. In the future, I would definitely consider an investment with this company if given a reason to do so.

Why do so many companies do the “bait-and-switch” routine? I believe it’s largely because of P.T. Barnum’s belief about a sucker being born every minute. There are so many people starving for the next great way to lose weight and rediscover good health that they get suckered in right and left via these types of schemes.

While I won’t ever discover if this company’s customer service is as bad as its bait-and-switch prospecting, it’s a fair guess that it is. Typically, these companies hook people when they’re “momentarily motivated,” knowing that many will fall off the wagon.

Based on multiple articles about the program, this appears to be the case. Instead of a get-rich-quick scheme, it’s another in a long line of get-thin-quick approaches that may enjoy near-term success with mid-to-longer term failures.

But, by then, they’re long past getting your money and on to someone else.

I, in contrast, plan to take the tenets I’ve learned, do some research and see if/how to apply the principles in a positive way. Given that the suggested foods already are part of my staples, it’s a matter of tweaking and shifting more than anything else. And all I’m spending is some time and effort to get more information and connect the dots. When a company starts with inaccurate and incomplete information, it’s likely key to how they do business throughout the customer service process. Leave them in the dust, and move on to companies willing to invest in you to get you to invest in them.

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In an increasingly complex world deluged with communication overload, it’s more important than ever for customer service reps to provide accurate and complete information. Unfortunately, it’s ever-more-challenging to do this, especially when the issues involved are emergent and/or complex in their own right. Pandemic-triggered efforts to relieve both personal and business suffering have provided huge insight into what happens when highly-sophisticated and complex relief efforts collide head-on with customer service requirements to interpret, inform and advise. In many cases, customer service communication has been rife with inaccuracy and incomplete information. This is a major customer disservice.

Mark Lusky

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