The Quality Conversation, a save and a changing world

Bob Davis The Quality Conversation bookAn excerpt from The Quality Conversation by Bob Davis

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The evening shift at the call center for The Florida Times-Union newspaper in Jacksonville, Florida, consisted of a supervisor and 10 part-time sales people. The sales people’s job was to call subscribers whose accounts were past due and nearing the end of the grace period. Their newspaper delivery was about to stop, and the team’s objective was to save these subscribers from canceling.

These are not easy calls. I was onsite to coach the supervisor and sales people after I had conducted a training program based on an exclusive approach I developed called The Quality Conversation. This approach was changing the sales culture in the call center. When the sales people called these subscribers and engaged in The Quality Conversation, they understood the subscribers’ wants, interests and needs. This helped them save a dramatic number of subscribers who otherwise would have canceled.

Vanessa, a customer service rep who followed the process consistently, made one of these difficult calls. It turned into pure magic. Here’s how it went:

Vanessa: “Hello. This is Vanessa with The Florida Times-Union calling for Mike Smith, please.”

Subscriber: “This is Mike Smith.”

Vanessa: “Hi, Mr. Smith! Once again, my name is Vanessa from The Florida Times-Union. I’m calling because your newspaper subscription is up for renewal, and I can help you with that!”

Subscriber: “That’s OK. I want to cancel my subscription.”

Vanessa: “I’m so sorry to hear that! Do you mind telling me why you want to cancel your subscription?”

Subscriber: “I’m just not reading the newspaper much anymore.”

Vanessa: “Why is that, do you think?”

Subscriber: “Well, my job responsibilities have changed. I now leave earlier and get home later, so on some days I pick up the paper in the driveway, but I never even get to read it.”

Vanessa: “OK, so if I understand you correctly, you’re leaving for work earlier and coming home later. Some days, you are so busy that you don’t have time to read the paper. I understand! Mr. Smith, in addition to not having enough time to read the paper, is there any other reason, anything at all, that makes you want to cancel your newspaper subscription?”

Subscriber: “Well, I don’t want to get him into trouble.”

Vanessa: “You won’t get anyone into trouble. What’s going on?”

Subscriber: “Well, it’s your carrier. He misses me at least once per week. I have spoken to him, but it doesn’t seem to do any good. I don’t want to make a fuss. He’s not too bright, and I’m sure he needs his job. But I just can’t put up with paying for a paper that’s not even here when I do have time to read it.”

Vanessa: “How long has this been going on?”

Subscriber: “Since the driver started the route—about five months or so, I guess.”

Vanessa: “I understand completely how frustrating this must be. Let me ask, of the two reasons you gave me—that the carrier isn’t doing his job, and that you don’t have time to read the paper on some days—what is the main reason that you want to cancel?”

Subscriber: “Well, to tell you the truth, it’s the frustration of having to deal with the carrier.”

Vanessa: “I understand, Mr. Smith. Let me look up a couple of things on your account. While I do, let me ask, when you do get a paper and have time to read it, what is your favorite section?”

Subscriber: “You’re going to laugh at me.”

Vanessa: “Why do you say that?”

Subscriber: “Well, my favorite is the comic strips section.”

Vanessa: “Why is the comic strips section your favorite?”

Subscriber: “Every Sunday, I spend at least an hour reading the paper. I sit in my favorite chair with a cup of coffee and read the entire paper. At some point, my four-year-old daughter comes in and climbs onto my lap. She says, ‘Read the funnies to me, Daddy!’ I read the funnies to her, and hands down, it’s the best 10 minutes of my week.”

Vanessa: “Wow, what a great reason to like the comic strips!

Thanks for sharing your story with me. I’ve been doing some research, and you’re not the only person having trouble on that route. I’m going to get with the district manager and make sure this problem gets fixed once and for all. If you will give me a week—it shouldn’t take that long, but just to be safe, give me a week—and we will have this problem fixed for you. This way, you’ll be able to continue to enjoy the Sunday comics with your little girl!”

Subscriber: “Thank you!”

Vanessa: “Oh, Mr. Smith, I see you’re entitled to get a permanent five-percent discount for going on EZ Pay. EZ Pay, just as the name suggests, is an easy way to pay your bill. We can put your charge on a credit card, and your account will be billed automatically each month. You’ll never have to worry about sending out a payment again. We know you’ll like EZ Pay so much that we’ll give you a permanent five-percent discount. What credit card would you like to put that on today?”

Subscriber: “Let’s put it on my Visa.”

Now this is a Quality Conversation! It saved the customer from canceling and secured his continued business through regular EZ Pay payments. It is precisely what anyone in customer service and sales needs to do every day on every call.

In sales, The Quality Conversation approach is a wonderful tool. The ability to hold Quality Conversations will increase your sales and improve customer service. More importantly, it will add value to your life.


What would a higher saves rate in your contact center mean for your organization? Contact Bob Davis today for a free consultation.


A changing world

Newspapers across the country have experienced a slow, steady decline in circulation for the past 20 years. This is partly because technology has changed how people read newspapers. A growing number of people read the paper online. This makes it more important than ever for newspapers to keep print subscribers from canceling.

The cable industry also sees customers canceling due to changing technology and competition. I know of a smart venture capitalist who spends his days thinking about the future. Recently, he said, “The cable industry is out of business, but they just don’t know it yet!” I do not agree with him, but I know that thousands of cable subscribers cancel every day. Some subscribers find attractive deals and services from competitors. Others prefer to watch movies and TV shows on the Internet only, so they suspend their cable television. Others cancel over rate increases.

In virtually all industries, the world is changing so fast that it is hard to keep up. On the front line of the battle of this changing world are companies’ customer contact centers.

Some newspaper and cable subscribers cancel by calling in. Others simply decide not to pay their bill until their subscriptions lapse. Companies can add value for all subscribers by holding Quality Conversations with them to understand every individual’s wants, interests and needs.

I am not suggesting that every conversation must be about fabulous topics or about profound, original ideas. Quality Conversations can be about the little things that mean so much! The 10 minutes the father in Florida spends reading the comics with his daughter every Sunday is so meaningful to him. The sales person who held The Quality Conversation with him did so while showing genuine interest. She made an emotional connection with the subscriber by letting him talk about a small thing that matters to him. It led him to change his mind about canceling, and he continued to subscribe. Clearly, being able to hold Quality Conversations makes the difference between winning and losing a sale, and between keeping and losing a customer.

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