Can BAD Service Be GOOD For Sales?

  I consider myself lucky to be living at the time that I am; where gender discrimination - if not completely abolished - is at least not the norm. I've spent years in the corporate world and years in the home, and I've never been one to think any seemingly unfair treatment I may have received had anything to do with my gender. And it's possible that this experience I'm going to relay also had nothing to do with my gender...but, it really made me think.
 On a personal basis, outside my role at AK, I encountered a national home remodeling group based out of PA ("Among the Nation's Top 5 Home Remodelers") when a local sales rep rang my doorbell. Since I work in the industry, I found his offer to provide a free estimate, guaranteed in writing, that would never expire to be very unusual. The sweet but nieve looking young man on my doorstep strongly promoted the fact that I could keep this estimate and have the work done whenever I wanted. "Years!" he said. 
  Not planning on having any work done immediately I decided to go ahead and set an appointment to have them give me an estimate on replacing the windows in my home. (I always use AK for work even on my personal home, but I find it very interesting to be in the client role from time to time and I find I learn a lot from it. I highly recommend it to other remodelers.)
  When I spoke to the office staff on the phone to confirm the appointment, standing in my doorway, the man on the other end of the line asked me "So, we will meet with you and your husband?" I was in no way offended by this question as I know how important it is to have both decision makers present at a consultation. It saves a contractor time and effort, minimizes confusion and gives both parties ample time to ask all questions that come to mind. I also know that in the real world, finding time to get a husband and wife together while not eating a meal or wrangling children is next to impossible.  I told the man on the other end of the phone that, No, my husband would be unable to meet.
  "Can we set another time when he can be there?" 
  Ok, I thought, this guy is persistent, but I still figured he was just doing an exceptionally good job of sticking to his sales process. I informed him that my husband would not be able to meet due to his current work schedule and our set appointment was the only time I had available. 
   "Well, if we can't meet with him as well then you just need to know we can't guarantee the pricing."
   This statement took me aback. This is when, in my mind, the sales process started to take a discriminating turn. Having children and a meal that needed my attention I took the path of least resistance and kept the appointment. But, it was not to be.
    Six hours prior to my appointment time, a company representative called me to confirm. (Again, professional. Good process.) However, again, he asked me to confirm that "my husband would be there." I was so shocked at this point. I couldn't believe that this seemed to be all this company wanted to ask me about! They didn't want to know when I wanted the work done, if I'd had any other quotes, if I knew of any specific problems or any of the other questions that I would have asked. The only thing they seemed to want to know was if my husband was going to be there.
  I explained to the man on the phone, again, that my husband was not going to be there and we were not interested in rescheduling. We simply wanted the free estimate, as promised, to hold on to for when we would want the work done.
 "Then, thank you very much for your time today, ma'am. Why don't you call us back when you are both ready to have work done." Click.
  As I said in the beginning, I've never thought that any strange or unfair treatment I received was because of my gender. But today, that changed.
   So - what do you think?
  Was I reading too much in to this?
  Is this just a large company with a concrete sales process that would rather let one person go then to sacrifice a process they know works?
  Or is it a large company who doesn't really care if the potential customer is offended, or even discriminated against, just as long as they keep the projects flowing?
  Most interestingly, if I had been a man, would the company have been so insistent that my wife be there?
  Insult? Or smart business move? Either way, the result of this interaction will be my family never doing business with this company. I will also be sharing my story with friends and family and recommend they don't work with this company either. Whether or not this company likes it, customer service is a part of their business - a part that I make sure my company, AK, excels at - and today, the other company failed at their job.
   So, as I had hoped, it was a learning experience. It just wasn't the lesson I had planned on learning. I was reminded why exceptional service is such a huge factor in a client's buying decision; and my mission to provide AK's clients exceptional service was firmly renewed.

Emily Smith is AK's Marketing Communications Manager. Emily has a BA from Duquesne University and more than ten years of experience in the construction, remodeling & design industry.


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