In June of 2008, I was frustrated to breaking point with Sprint’s customer service.
We’d just renewed our cell phone contract, and gotten new free phones.
The problem? They absolutely sucked.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but the phones we got had horrible reviews.
And in the first couple months I had the phone, mine died. Not once, but twice. Coincidentally, when I was talking to my mom on Mother’s Day, then when I was talking to my dad on Father’s day.
I went through the whole rigmarole. Battery replacement — ha! Phone replacement — $40. Another phone replacement — this one “on the house” because it was within 30 days.
But that was just the beginning. Bad customer service in the Sprint store. Bad customer service on the phone.
And then, a sales pitch for $168 worth of phone insurance, so I wouldn’t have to pay for my monthly phone replacement. Or… $200 to get out of my contract and go to another carrier.
I was not having it!
So I managed to dig up the email addresses of 12 Sprint executives on a consumer advocacy website.
And I sat down and wrote an angry email.
I started with the negative media coverage Sprint had been getting. They were cutting jobs, because they were losing customers. I rubbed it in, quoting a CNET article, “One of the biggest problems Sprint has faced is retaining customers.”
I cited the phone’s bad reviews across multiple websites, admitting that I’d found them AFTER choosing the free phone Sprint offered.
I told my story, explaining the multiple phone failures, and the ensuing customer service SNAFUs.
I highlighted how their front-line employees in the Sprint store sheepishly admitted that the phone wasn’t any good (applauding his attempts at being political about it).
I tied it all back into the original proof point, that they were losing customers. I connected the dots and explained how they were going to lose me too — that my experience was representative of systemic problems plaguing their company.
I explained how I’d tried to be a good customer, and climbed their customer service and retention ladders — without result.
I told yet more stories of unsympathetic, poorly-trained Sprint employees who didn’t care about my satisfaction, about solving my problems, and who were driving me away as a customer with their apathy.
And then, I proposed not one, but five possible scenarios. Only ONE specifically requested they release me from my contract. Four others involved me staying with Sprint.
And for EACH of these scenarios, I tried to think from their perspective — in the interest of Sprint’s business success.
The one that would both keep me as a customer and require them to be the most generous involved them replacing my phone without renewing my contract. I explained that I’d practically given up on them at that point, but they could potentially earn my business back if I was able to get a better phone.
Other options gave them a ton of flexibility, but I explained how the different courses of action might limit their ability to gain my favor again.
It was a LONG email, but it was pretty well written, and I thought fairly levelheaded, despite me being pretty dang angry regarding the situation.
Within 24 hours I had a voice mail from Sprint…
It turned out that by writing 12 executives, my message got forwarded to the same department that handles regulatory issues. They have a high-level crisis management team in their corporate office, and I’d found my way there.
Within a week , we had replacement phones in-hand and activated. Without a new contract.
They were quick and generous in resolving the issue.
I got what I wanted, and they got to keep me as a customer. It was a win all around.
And it all stemmed from writing that letter.
It was at that moment that it became really clear to me…
You can get almost anything you want if you know WHO to write to, and WHAT you need to say to them…
At the time, I was already in marketing. I understood the value of putting a compelling message in front of your target market. In fact, I was helping my company generate millions of dollars in sales per year with my writing.
But I realized how powerful those personal letters can be, too. Letters written to an individual, or to a small group. With a personalized message specifically for them.
These areas are useful in many, many areas of your life. In fact, when I REALLY want something to happen, my first reaction today is that I need to sit down and write a letter. You should try it…
Here’s what you need to say if you want to get pretty much anything you want with your writing…
Now, you can’t just sit down and write anything. And if I’d JUST written an angry letter to Sprint’s executives, I wouldn’t have necessarily gotten the same treatment.
What I made sure I did in that letter — and what I do in every other letter I write to try to get the recipient to take action — is thought of THEM first.
The #1 question I sought to answer was, “What’s in it for me?”
But NOT from my perspective. Rather, from my reader’s.
I put myself in their shoes. I thought about what their priorities were. What are all the good things they want? What bad things do they want to get away from?
And then I spoke to those things. Explaining how by working with me and giving me what I wanted, they could get what they wanted.
Sprint’s executives were getting grilled for all the customers they were losing. Mine was a situation where I highlighted, specifically, why they were about to lose me as a customer.
But I gave them the chance to save me as a customer. Sure, I’m just one. But as part of saving me, they got to see some of what was going on down on the front lines of the business. And how that may have contributed to losing many customers like me, who simply would never write to them.
In saving me, it was a first step to saving more customers — and saving themselves.
By thinking of them first, I got a fast response, and a very good resolution.
If there’s something you want — a business deal, a personal connection, a customer service resolution, anything — think about who you need to write to, what they want and need from the situation, and how giving you what you want could get them what they want.
And then, sit down and write the letter.
You’ll be amazed at what happens next!
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,
Editor, Breakthrough Marketing Secrets