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Scott McKain

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You’re Fired! Common Mistakes That Lose Customers

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randy-pennington-headshotWe fired the service that had done all of our lawn care, landscaping, tree trimming, and holiday lights for 17 years. There wasn’t one single incident that caused us to leave. It was the culmination of a number of little things over an 18 month period.

In the beginning, the owner closely supervised the crews, paid attention to quality, and was excellent in following up and communicating. Then again, his business was new and hungry.

Over the years, the service level and responsiveness diminished. Emails and telephone messages went unanswered for up to a week. The quality of the work became inconsistent, and we could no longer count on him to follow-through on requests without constant prodding.

And yet, we weren’t really looking to change. He’s a good guy, and we tried to understand when he told us that he had so much business that keeping up was difficult. But we fired this provider for the same reasons that many personal relationships fail – inattention. We felt ignored and taken for granted. Someone made us feel wanted by asking for our business, and we said, “What have we got to lose?”

Randy Pennington helps leaders deliver positive results in a world of accelerating change. To find out more, go to www.penningtongroup.com.


joe-calloway-headshotA couple of years ago I fired a company that had become irrelevant to me, but the ensuing madness and incompetence was almost beyond description. I will never do business with them again. I had a telephone line with AT&T for my office – a land line that I almost never used. Finally I pulled the plug, cancelled the service and that was that. Not.

For six months I dealt with AT&T reps who threatened me with collection agency action for my unpaid bill – on a line I had cancelled months earlier. One rep would say “I’ll take care of it.” The next day I’d get a letter from their legal department saying “You’re delinquent on your bill – we’re suing.” Back and forth, to and fro, one rep more incompetent and uncaring than the next.

I think the two, big, common mistakes that AT&T made were 1) having a system in which one department had no idea what another was doing, and, 2) hiring people who simply didn’t care about the customer.

I guess if I were to boil it down even more, I’d say to AT&T, “Don’t be incompetent. Don’t be mean. Don’t be stupid.”

Peace out.

Joe Calloway helps great companies get even better. www.JoeCalloway.com


larry-winget-headshotI set an appointment to buy garage doors. He didn’t show and didn’t call to let me know he was running late. He didn’t answer his phone when I called. When he got there four hours later, I told him I wasn’t doing business with him because he was disrespectful of my time and that if he couldn’t keep his word about an appointment, then I didn’t trust his doors, quote or delivery date.

An air conditioning company left a mess behind after working on my air conditioner. They could have sold me a new one, but after leaving their food wrappers and wire clippings in my yard, I found another company.

A doctor’s receptionist told me to “go sit down” when I inquired why it was an hour after my appointment time and I still hadn’t been seen. I’m a grown man; you don’t get to talk to me like I’m 7 years old when I inquire why you can’t keep your word.

My motto: Do what you said you would do, when you said you would do it, the way you said you would do it. If you don’t, you’re a liar and we won’t do business.

Larry Winget, the Pitbull of Personal Development®, is a six-time NYT/WSJ bestselling author, social commentator and appears regularly on many national television news shows. To find out more, go to www.LarryWinget.com.


mark-sanborn-headshotI fired one of my favorite restaurant chains.

I took my family to our local Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen to celebrate a birthday. The experience was a parody of what should have happened: slow service, wrong drink orders, wrong food orders and more. It was exasperating.

A young manager, however, saved the day. She comped the entire meal and provided me a $50 gift certificate to encourage me to return.

I tried to compliment her to corporate. The website feedback form was convoluted but I filled in the required information and praised the assistant manager. The promised “response within 48 hours” never came.

I called corporate to follow up. Whoever I spoke to wasn’t very helpful, so I asked for a manager to call me. Instead the local store manager called and left a message. He said he’d be out of town for a few days and would follow up when he returned. He never did.

When I tried to use the $50 certificate, I found unexpected restrictions. It was the final straw.

At the time I was writing a Five Friends blog about our favorite restaurants. I dropped Pappadeauxs from the list.

Mark Sanborn is president of Sanborn & Associates, Inc., an idea studio for leadership development. He is an award-winning speaker bestselling author of books including, The Fred Factor. For more information and free resources, visit www.marksanborn.com.


scott-mckain-headshotMy wife and I were sharing with her oncologist about our just-completed weekend in Napa.

The doctor said to us, “Don’t spend your time doing frivolous things like Napa. Your life will be ending soon.”

I was flabbergasted – why would you not want to enjoy the time you had left?

“Sheri’s situation is terminal and she will be gone soon.” The doctor was talking as if my wife wasn’t sitting right there in front of her.

Standing up, and looking at the doctor, I said three words to her: “You are fired.”

Her jaw dropped. “You can’t fire me,” she replied, “I’m a doctor.”

“Call it whatever you want,” I said, “but you will never see us again.”

We found another oncologist – a wonderful, compassionate doctor – and Sheri had another three years of full living, enjoying each day.

Sometimes when we think about firing, we tend to think of the examples of retailers or service providers that are mentioned by my friends here.

Yet, when professionals at the highest level of social respect fail to exhibit empathy, or place themselves on a pedestal that interferes with the experience of the customer, client, or patient – they, too, deserve to be fired.

Scott McKain teaches how organizations and individual professionals can create distinction in their marketplace, and deliver the “Ultimate Customer Experience®.” For more informationwww.ScottMcKain.com

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Scott McKain is a business leader, bestselling author, and Hall of Fame professional speaker.
Scott's latest book, "The Collapse of Distinction: Stand Out and Move Up While Your Competition Fails" reached the #1 spot on Amazon.com list of Customer Service Bestsellers! He is the author of two #1 additional business bestsellers (Amazon.com & 800-CEO-READ): "What Customers REALLY Want" (currently available in trade paperback) and "ALL Business is Show Business."
He is the Co-founder and Principal of The Value Added Institute, a think-tank that examines the role of the customer experience in creating significant advances in the level of client loyalty, and has appeared on multiple occasions as a commentator and analyst on FOX News Channel. His platform presentations have run the gamut from the White House lawn with the President in the audience carried live on CNN and NBC's "Today" show...to a remote outpost near the Amazon...all 50 states, seven Canadian provinces...and from Singapore to Sweden...Mexico to Morocco.
An inductee into the Professional Speakers Hall of Fame, he is also a member of "Speakers Roundtable" -- an elite, invitation-only group of twenty of the world's top business speakers.