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Scott McKain

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What is Acceptable?

What’s your failure rate? How many times are you, unfortunately, letting customers down?

I’m off to Boston today — with a speech tomorrow to one of my all-time favorite clients, Harvard Pilgrim, the best health insurance company in the nation. (Not just my feelings — J.D. Power agrees!)

So…as I’m doing some reading this morning, I stumbled across this item, buried on a website for Apple fanatics, It seems as though a customer of Apple’s went into the SoHo store in New York City complaining about his iPhone. The problem was, according to the customer, the phone dropped a significant number of calls.

All of us know the frustration of dropped calls. Either our inability to connect, or losing the connection when we’re in the middle of a conversation, can create one of those moments that make us want to fling our phones and say words of which our parents would disapprove.

Being the outstanding organization they are — one that creates “Ultimate Customer Experiences" for their clients — the Apple employee at the Genius Bar runs a diagnostic test on the phone.

It’s important to understand a technological point here — Apple makes the iPhone, but AT&T provides the system upon which the phone must operate. As you probably know, the iPhone is only available through AT&T…and, therefore, to a monumental degree, the functions of the iPhone that are actually a phone (as opposed to the part where “there’s an app for that…”) are highly dependent upon the quality of AT&T’s service, rather than Apple’s.

The result of the diagnostic tests? The customer’s phone was dropping a little over 22 percent of the calls. The amazing part about that? Here’s what the Apple Genius wrote

    Issue Description: dropped calls, poor signal

    Steps to Reproduce: plugged into behavior scan, report concludes that phone has dropped over 22 percent of the phone calls made. customer states that the percentage is a bit higher but does not register to the phone due to the fact that when a call begins to fail he manually disconnects the call.

    Issue Verified: Yes

    Proposed Resolution: this is a basic trouble shooting case so that the customer may report back to ATT to show that the phone is fully functional and the problem is consistent with the service provided by ATT (emphasis mine)

The report also notes that AT&T has “acknowledged” performance problems, particularly in New York City and the Bay Area in California.

However, how in the world is a 22% failure rate EVER acceptable for ANY company?

Ponder this for a moment — what if EVERY customer complained? You and I know it will NEVER happen. Customers instead are waiting — particularly in New York City and the Bay Area — for the exclusivity arrangement that Apple has with AT&T to expire so they can move to another carrier. They won’t complain — but they won’t remain, either.

What’s your failure rate? How many times are you, unfortunately, letting customers down? Are you depending upon THEM…or a provider like Apple is to AT&T…to tell you? If so, you may wish to reconsider. Customers may not be complaining — they may just be enduring a high rate of failure until another option becomes available.

I hope the fine folks at Boston’s Logan Airport have a significant lower tolerance of failure than AT&T.

If they accepted a 22% failure rate, it would mean there would be about 200 plane crashes there.


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Scott McKain is a business leader, bestselling author, and Hall of Fame professional speaker.
Scott's latest book, "The Collapse of Distinction: Stand Out and Move Up While Your Competition Fails" reached the #1 spot on list of Customer Service Bestsellers! He is the author of two #1 additional business bestsellers ( & 800-CEO-READ): "What Customers REALLY Want" (currently available in trade paperback) and "ALL Business is Show Business."
He is the Co-founder and Principal of The Value Added Institute, a think-tank that examines the role of the customer experience in creating significant advances in the level of client loyalty, and has appeared on multiple occasions as a commentator and analyst on FOX News Channel. His platform presentations have run the gamut from the White House lawn with the President in the audience carried live on CNN and NBC's "Today" a remote outpost near the Amazon...all 50 states, seven Canadian provinces...and from Singapore to Sweden...Mexico to Morocco.
An inductee into the Professional Speakers Hall of Fame, he is also a member of "Speakers Roundtable" -- an elite, invitation-only group of twenty of the world's top business speakers.