Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Customer service shake up

The revolution in customer service is underway and this has been largely driven by the growth of social media, networking and collaboration that have been enabled by Web 2.0 technology. Yes, customers are doing it for themselves and standing up to shabby treatment and a lack of imagination in product development and service delivery. And businesses, service providers and governments are finally listening...really listening. Those that are not listening will hasten their ride to the graveyard of legacy business models.

My collaborator in this blog, Ralf, asked the question, is service valuable and accountable? Let's keep this simple and round it off to three types of service providers:

1. The Good
These are providers that love what they do and care about their customers. They continuously train their staff and maintain a high quality product and service. This can range from small operators like my favorite cafe who know my name and how I like my coffee to large operators like Amazon who knows what books I bought yesterday and what I may like tomorrow.

2. The Bad
These are providers that have established a formula that may have worked once upon a time, but have not bothered to update or improve their products and service. Where flexibility or customisation are required, customers are forced to pay a penalty or put up with a sub-optimal product or service. These providers are usually a throw back to the Henry Ford business proposition: you can have any color as long as its black...These providers choose cost efficiency over customer effectiveness.

3. The Ugly
These guys promise you the world and usher you into customer lock in. Once you're in they throw away the key. A prime example here: I have a Blackberry from Optus here in Australia on a two year contract. Earlier this year the device developed a fault and needed to be fixed. To cut a long story short, Optus had to send it to a specialist in Sydney to get fixed. It took 10 weeks and they could not offer me another device as a replacement or while I waited. I have been a customer of Optus for 15 years and I effectively run my business off my Blackberry. Did Optus care? NO! No prizes for guessing what I am going to do when the contract is finished. Hasta la vista Optus.

For my own business I work very hard to keep it in the GOOD category. It must be working as I have a happy, growing and profitable customer base.

Which business are you?


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