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HomemilastwordThe Last Word: Breaking Up Is Hard to Do

The Last Word: Breaking Up Is Hard to Do

After much soul searching, I recently ended a long-term relationship. When we began it was full of promise and hope. Over time, it gradually became so dysfunctional, and so one-sided, that it was beyond salvage. I was loyal for 20 years, but was met with indifference. So I left.

There were no explanations, no negotiations. I just walked away – straight into the arms of a rival phone company; one that promises greater network coverage at higher speeds. Best of all, my new company will handle the whole transition – I don’t have to do a thing.

Twenty years is a long time to spend with one company. It’s longer than my marriage, my business partnership and most of my friendships. My new phone contract is more expensive, so why did I switch? I switched because I am tired of searching for a hill, or standing on one leg with my arm in the air, or waiting for the wind to blow from the south or whatever it is that ensures I have a mobile signal when I am in rural areas. I am tired of waiting hours for my videos to download and for my music to buffer.

I put up with dropouts and lack of reception because that was what I thought was normal. I didn’t stray because I thought my relationship was valued. Despite 20 years of loyal custom, the company showed me otherwise.

…‘complaints are a gift’ and the more personal the product or service, the more valuable the gift

Disillusioned, my eye started to wander, and I realised that others were offering a better product. I did try to complain initially, but after being handballed between departments, I simply gave up. Nothing ever changed, so I stopped bothering. Ultimately, I stopped caring enough about my relationship with the telco to want to fix it.

In stark contrast, I recently received a botched order from another company that I have dealt with on a long-standing basis. My complaint was dealt with courteously. The first person I spoke to rectified the problem (and then some), showing me the company values my relationship. The company backs up the service with a superior product – and I’m still raving about it to my family and friends.

The take home lessons for me in all of this? There are two.

Firstly, it has been repeated so often it is almost a cliché, but ‘complaints are a gift’ and the more personal the product or service, the more valuable the gift. Generally, complaints are made by customers who trust you enough to want you to fix the problem. When they no longer trust you, they will leave without a word.

Secondly, people will only accept an inferior product for so long.

Ultimately, most will seek out quality products and good service – even if they have to pay a little more. A cheap product may cost 50 per cent less than a quality product but, in most cases, it will only look half as good, last half as long and, like my telco, cost more in the long run.