From 5 Stars to 1… In One Phone Call

2 Nov

It happens all the time: A good customer with a consistently great experience with a company is suddenly turned off by one negative encounter. The cost can be high.

A colleague of mine gave an example that recently happened to her company. She’d contracted with “Company A” several years ago. Their partnership had been a solid, mutually beneficial one with nothing but a bright future on the horizon. So she thought.

One morning she received a phone call from “Company A” aggressively requesting payment for an outstanding invoice. The caller immediately began the conversation with, “You haven’t paid your invoice for XX dollars. When will you pay this bill?” The tone was accusatory from the start, with the caller increasing his tone with each minute to the point of being rude and unprofessional.

Given the pristine payment record on the account and the good relationship history, my colleague was taken aback. Confident the call was a mistake, she combed back through the records and found the date the check was cut. It turned out that the invoice in question had indeed been paid, on time, and several months prior to the call!

“Company A” had made the mistake, which was further exacerbated by an aggressive employee wearing the collector’s hat.


In my colleague’s words, “A mistake is forgivable with an apology and action points to make sure it doesn’t happen again. But rude, unprofessional handling of the mistake is unforgivable.” She described her satisfaction level with “Company A” going from 5 stars down to 1 with just one phone call.

Rather than end the business relationship (which some would do), she cooled off and made a phone call to her contact at the company. With that conversation, she was able to bump her satisfaction rating back up to a 5. “Company A” got lucky.

We say it all the time to collectors: don’t assume anything. Ask questions. Get the full story. Do the investigative work necessary to understand the factors that have lead to an unpaid bill. Aggressive or rude phone calls are unprofessional and unacceptable. There’s a huge difference between being firm and being rude.

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