By Jim Pilgrim

Back in the early 1980’s I was in a television commercial. I worked for Northwestern Bell and they started a marketing campaign that they called “Let’s Talk”. It featured the “regular” people at the company (Service Reps, Clerks, and Technicians) and promoted the idea we were there to help our customers. I was a 22 year old pup at the time and although it was cool to be in a TV commercial (hey I got to wear my tool belt), I thought it was kind of corny. Over the years, I have learned I was so wrong.

I got a call yesterday for one of the Engineering Consultants I work with. He said he called to tell me that we were going to win a FTTH project and we should see the PO today. I told him thanks for the good news and asked why did they decide to go with Clearfield over our competition? Was it our high density fiber panels and frames? The flexibility of our products, or was it price? He said “it was because of your visit with them a few weeks ago”. Normally I don’t call on Telcos, but I was in the area and I stopped in to discuss their FTTH plans and show them our products. I was there for about 3 hours and we spent most of that time talking about IPTV challenges, general FTTH design options and applications not even related to our products specifically. I’m not telling this story to brag about my involvement. Any number of our sales guys or engineers would have done the same thing. My point is the importance of that direct communication; listen, learn, talk.

Customers don’t want to hear you regurgitate the company line or ramble on and on about your product. They want to put a face to the name of a company. Customers trust a person, not a company. If there is an issue, I know they will call me to help resolve it.

Stick an outsourced call center or an automated Voice Response Unit or answering system between you and your customer is like throwing up a wall. You’ve all heard “People are a company’s greatest asset”. It can sound cliché, an empty sound bite from a company Vision Statement. But it is so true.

Most days when you call Clearfield’s main phone number you are going to talk with Sue. No “Press 1 for English” B.S. Sue will find out what you need and transfer you to someone that will help.

I don’t want to hear about “efficiency” or “cost savings”. Customers want to talk to a person who cares and they want to be heard. Take that away and your company is cutting its own throat.

Next time I’m in your town, let’s talk. I promise to do more listening and less talking.