Robert Lawrence was aghast. Despite practicing the sales call four times, despite being told before the sales call exactly what to say when the question arose, and despite being directed by the account manager how to respond while in the sales call, the regional director of service still blew it – and away walked a $5.5 million customer. Robert, branch manager for Mobile Connections, knew that the customer, Health Resources of Texas (HRT), was having problems with two of the copiers provided by Mobile. Further, these were reoccurring problems that should be resolved by replacing the equipment. To make matters worse, one of the problem copiers was used by Sharon Collins, one of the decision makers. He knew that Sharon was going to raise the issue of how Mobile would handle “lemons” and whether Mobile would honor its replacement promise. The service director was also aware of the problems but had not processed the request to replace them yet, so he didn’t know with certainty whether the free replacement copiers would be approved. But Robert had rehearsed with Tony Lagera, the service director, to say that the company was reviewing the request and the copiers would either be replaced in the week or shifted to areas with less volume. Sharon raised the question, just as Robert expected. And Tony flubbed it. He hemmed. He hawed. He did everything but answer the question directly. Unfortunately Robert couldn’t just answer for Tony- the service area was Tony’s responsibility, not Robert’s. Robert and the account manager sat in stunned silence. After the call, Robert asked, “So, Tony, how do you think it went?” “Fine, Robert!” he replied with a smile. “You were right on target about Sharon’s question.” “And you think you handled it?” “Oh yes – I think she really liked my response!” Robert didn’t respond, though he thought about asking Tony why she repeated the question four times. Two weeks later, Robert got a copy of the letter that went to his salesperson, thanking Mobile for the presentation but informing them that Mobile would not be allowed to bid on the job. After serving HRT for three years without any hitch other than those two machines (and there were over 100 machines), Mobile wasn’t even going to get a chance to bid.
1. Things had gone well with this account overall. What, though, were the critical issues in determining the customer’s satisfaction that led to the loss of the customer? Was the problem simply a lack of satisfaction with the product? Using concepts from the chapter, describe how the customer’s value equation was influenced by the experiences both before the call and during the call. Consider, too, the role that the buying center makeup played in the situation.
2.Was there anything the sales rep or his boss, Robert Lawrence, could have done after the sales call to save the business?
3.Not only were there no other problems during the previous three-year contract, but Mobile had originally won the business away from a competitor and significantly improved HRT’s situation. Why didn’t those results enter the picture?