Wednesday, April 09, 2008

When $1 stands between you and a customer

Over the past two weeks, I have watched a large national communications carrier - who shall remain nameless to protect the guilty... for now - fall all over itself within its order processing and legal groups.

Those of you who know and and know the frequency with which I touch telecommunications contracts can safely assume it's not the first time I have seen it happen. And it certainly won't be the last.

In this particular instance, however, the idiocy of the processes and people involved traveled to new stratospheric heights. So high, I'm surprised the oxygen masks didn't deploy.

What did they do? They refused to process an order because it was $1 (yes, 1 dollar) short of the revenue required to be able to send the customer a bill. Somewhere along the way, some corporate idiotog implemented a process whereby only customers billing $200 or more per month are entitled to invoice billing. And they did so in a way that completely eliminated all flexibility, sense and reason of the part of their provisioning staff.

My client had ordered services totaling $199 - which with tax would be well in excess of $200. (To the tune of ~$214 per month.) But... Thanks to the idiostratespheric policy in place, the legal department of said carrier refused said order because the billing amount was under $200. That's right, they outright denied an order because it was, on paper, $1 too small an order to qualify for invoice billing.

I'm all for processes and procedures... until they cause a company who is struggling in the marketplace to lose a new customer over $1 in revenue.

When did the telecommunications world - especially the CLEC world - grow so stupid that it would willingly turn down a paying customer who would generate profit for the company? We're not talking about $25/mo DSL service here with no margins. This is real business service with real margins.

Maybe somewhere along the way I missed the class all these MBA graduates apparently take on "How to screw your customer and trash your business' reputation."

In this particular case, I was able to have a "come to Jesus" meeting with all of the management involved and force them to fix their flawed policy.

What's unfair however is the fact that most normal customers wouldn't have had ready access to all the decision makers required to fix the problem. Instead, they would simply have been steamrolled by an inflexible policy, stupid management and a company who refuses to admit it's so screwed up someone needs to hit the "reboot" button and start all over. Somewhere along the way, this CLEC forgot who it was and has, as such, forsaken its customers.

We are in an economic downturn. All the CLECs had better be listening: LEARN TO LOVE YOUR CUSTOMERS AGAIN! Those who fail to heed the message will find themselves sitting in bankruptcy liquidation or being sold off to some vulture capital firm who will milk as much money out as possible and then close down the company.