Thursday, August 13, 2009

Customer Loyalty is a Lost Art

Miss me?

Recently I've encountered two occasions when I contemplated changing service providers - my cell phone (Sprint) and my auto insurance (Mercury). Simply service and price shopping. I encountered nothing but apathy.

In the case of Sprint, I've been a 'loyal' customer for over-seven years. I'm on my third phone, have loved their service and have referred friends. As my latest two-year contract was coming to an end, I tried to upgrade my phone. I still had a month or two to wait before the full discount kicked in. I called Sprint, even offered to sign a new two-year contract. They did not budge.

Then, the glow of the iPhone caught me in my web. Thoughts of this device have danced in my head for over-two years now. My last Sprint contract was signed just two months before the first iPhone hit the market and I've been trapped.

But this is neither here nor there... my gripe is that Sprint did nothing to try to keep a loyal customer. Nothing. At all. I was nothing more than a monthly payment to them. Two days after I ported my number over to AT&T, I tried to log into my online Sprint Account to close it. It was gone. No past invoices to access, nothing. I called them and my password didn't work. They literally had deleted me from there system.

My second encounter was with Auto Insurance. Every six months, I check prices online and nobody has beaten Mercury. This year, another Agent representing Mercury, said he could save me $220 annually for the SAME coverage... still through Mercury! I called my Mercury Agent to tell them what this Agent was offering. They hemmed and hawed and offered nothing lower. Guess what I did after over-nine years! (A week after the switch, I received a form letter from my small agent who represents Mercury telling me that my policy has been canceled due to non-payment and that they were sorry to love me as a client! [the '!' was theirs].)

So what gives? Companies love (LOVE) new customers - just look at the free cell phones you can get - but seem to do NOTHING to retain existing ones. Why? The longer you're with a company, the more (I'd think) you'd mention it to your friends. Word of Mouth is a powerful advertising tool... but it works two ways.

So Sprint. So Gary Warner Insurance. After nearly a decade with both of you, you have both lost a loyal client.

AT&T and AIS Insurance - I hope you will not make the same mistakes in the future.

Night all!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Review - "Guys & Dolls: In Concert"

A 60-year old musical gets the 'In-Concert' treatment and ultimately entertains.

Some of the cast, phenomenal: Ken Page as "Nicely-Nicely" - stealing the show with "Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat"; Ruth Williamson as "Gen. Cartwright" and Jason Graae as "Benny Southstreet". Some of the cast, very good: Ellen Greene as "Adelaide"; Scott Bakula as "Nathan Detroit"; and - surprisingly - Brian Stokes-Mitchell as "Sky Masterson" (surprising because he was only good and not phenomenal).

BSM seemed to walk through this production, but probably because if he fully embraced the role and made it his, Jessica Biel (as "Sister Sarah") - who played opposite him - would have run off the stage, crying at how poorly prepared and cast she was. You cannot pair BSM with such a novice. JB wasn't horrible, but next to a powerhouse? Duets were painful and BSM had to hold back.

In fairness to everyone, this was the first night of a three-night run and I did catch a few flubbed lines, but the Orchestra sounded great and voices were pretty solid. Choreography by Donna McKechnie (who won a Tony in 1976 for the role of 'Cassie' in "A Chorus Line") was good, but not great. Most dances felt like they were possibly grander at some point, but on the small-ish Bowl stage, felt squeezed.

Overall production's pacing was a little sluggish at times, but ultimately entertaining, tuneful and worth a shot (in the cheaper seats).