My Vanishing Corporate Contact

Jim Luff
Posted on May 15, 2012

SAY WHAT? What happens when your main contact at a corporate account is suddenly gone and you can’t find out for sure why?

In 1997, I had a chance encounter at a community function and met a woman I will call “Cindy.” Cindy was the wife of a local grape farmer. I’m talking about a huge farming operation that ships its grapes worldwide and conducts business globally.
I handed Cindy a business card, and told her a little about myself and my charity work in the community. I also told her about the services we offer. The new relationship took off.  Soon, Cindy’s brother-in-law, also a partner in the business, was using us for airport service. Then other administrative employees began using us. Then a 15-hour shopping trip to Southern California’s famed South Coast Plaza became an annual holiday event.  There were Dodger games, medical appointments, business trips, airport trips, and it seemed twice a week we were charging their corporate card for some trip by someone.

There were tons of prom and formal charters from this enterprising family. Eventually the kids became young adults and began taking business trips of their own, getting married, and having babies. You might say it was like a giant episode of, “As The World Turns.”
During the last few months, I noticed that orders have continued to be placed weekly but are now placed by Cindy’s daughter, “Mary.” I have not heard from Cindy in months.  Particularly disturbing is the fact that I could pick up the phone and call Cindy about a charity event and she would gladly write a check to support any cause I was involved in.  Where was Cindy? I was just about to call Cindy when I was forwarded an email from one of our dispatchers that had come from Cindy’s daughter, Mary. At the bottom of the order was a post-script. It said, “Please remove Cindy from the account as she is no longer responsible for this account.”
This left me wondering about whether Mary was now responsible for placing orders and paying the bill because Cindy had retired or some other situation existed. I didn’t want to call Cindy as I feared if there was a family problem and I called her to inquire about the odd email, I could hear the wrath of Mary and lose the longstanding account for probing around. Why rock the boat?

I decided to ask my son. He is frequently assigned to drive for the account and knows all of the key players on a much more personal level from hours and hours in the car with them. He informed me that he was told by Cindy’s son, “Bob,” “Cindy is a crazy lady that we no longer speak to.”
Um, okay. I guess I will never know what happened to Cindy.  I’m not going to risk making the call as that single call could erase about $86,000 a year in income.  It sure is bugging me though.

Jim Luff, LCT contributing editor

Related Topics: customer service, Jim Luff, operations

Jim Luff Contributing Editor
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