Do you have a sales prevention department?

“Ad-libs” by John Foust


Every business has procedures in need of tweaking. Do any of those procedures at your newspaper involve the advertising department? It might be a good idea to take a look.

I remember a Monday night long ago when my cable TV stopped working. I called the customer service line and went through the frustrating process of getting a real person on the line. That person was nice, but said they couldn’t do anything about my cable until Thursday. Between Monday and Thursday, I received at least six automated messages to remind me of the appointment.

On Thursday, I made plans to be home to meet the service tech. When he arrived, he quickly determined that the cable box needed to be replaced. He retrieved a new box from his truck and installed it in a couple of minutes. Then the real trouble started. He couldn’t activate the box until he received authorization from the cable company. As he explained it, the box which he had just connected to the TV had to be transferred in their records from the company’s inventory to his truck’s inventory to my TV. He submitted that request, but they couldn’t make the switch right away because he had to wait his turn.

He was a nice fellow. As we sat in the kitchen and waited, he talked about his work, his family and his children’s interests. Along the way, he mentioned that he liked his job, but that he spent most of his time waiting for the home office to authorize the equipment he installed.

After an hour of waiting, I tried to help by placing a call to customer service. When I eventually got someone on the line, I explained the problem and handed the phone to the technician. The customer service rep said she would look into the problem. But after more waiting, the tech decided to call another technician to see if he had a cable box that had already gone through an inventory switch. The new tech showed up a little later, and luckily that box worked.

The end result was that he was there for three hours to do twenty minutes of work, he was over an hour late for his next appointment, and — worst of all — he said it was an ordinary day.

The story doesn’t end there. About an hour after the technician left, I received another automated phone call to remind me of the appointment.

Everyone I encountered was genuinely concerned about my problem, but they were limited by a faulty internal system.

I’m reporting this experience in excruciating detail to illustrate the negative chain of events that can result from a flawed process. I’ve run across some newspapers with similar system defects. In fact, I once heard of an office that had such a stringent credit process that people referred to it as the “sales prevention department.”

The challenge is to find problems and fix them. If you do that, you’ll become a customer service hero.

Copyright 2019 by John Foust. All rights reserved.

John Foust has conducted training programs for thousands of newspaper advertising professionals. Many ad departments are using his training videos to save time and get quick results from in-house training. E-mail for information: john@johnfoust.com