After 11 years living in the United States, I moved homes. There is a lot to learn about deceptive business practices from realtors and bankers, and about insurance companies that automatically raise your rates because you have a less-tony postal code (but 11 years without a claim).
What really struck me during the move was the gap between what happens to a customer and what the average CEO thinks happens with and to a customer. I advise businesses on social networks and media, on CRM and customer experience, and the technologies and processes required to improve customer relations. Then I interact with these same businesses as a customer and marvel at the disconnect between board-level talking points and the real world.
Alright, you ask, can I give you one example? I’ll use everyone’s favorite: the Cable Guy. Nothing could be simpler than to install cable TV, internet, and IP telephones – the lines were already running into the house. Ah! Those lines (snip, snip, tuck, hide) – Cable Guy needs new ones. Can you feed the cable through an empty wall space? “No, sir, we only drill new holes and run everything along external walls and internal walls.” I ask: “but can’t you take off this electrical cover? It’s where the old cable came into the room.” Cable Guy answers: I can’t unscrew a cover.
After a break, and talking to his supervisor on the phone, he comes to hook up the internet. I mention that he skipped a television. Cable Guy says, “I can’t hook it up, it’s in a box.” I ask him why he didn’t just say that rather than skipping it. Cable Guy says, “We don’t do that.” Then I notice he’s hooked the cable up between the cable box and the TV, even though there is a DVR in between. I ask Cable Guy if he could hook it up the way it will actually be used. “We don’t do that. We just check for signal.”
Then the internet: Cable Guy sets up the model, and I connect it to the phone, and he asks me to sign the paperwork so he can leave. I ask him, “Don’t we need to make sure the internet is working?” Cable Guy says, “No. You just fire up the browser, and if it asks you for an order number, just put in this number.”
Now Cable Guy was moving fast. Out the door and gone. I tried to “fire up” my browser. Nope. Reboot. Nope. I called customer service, but ‘unusually high call volumes’ kept me on hold eight minutes, and then the line went dead. I call again. Nine minutes, and the line goes dead. Then I get through. Customer service puts me onto Technical Support. She sees nothing wrong. Technical Support transfers me to Billing. Billing has no idea who I am or what I want. This is a system that would challenge anyone except the Buddha. Billing gives up and says I need Technical Support. He has no idea I’ve spoken to Technical Support. At this point I am the peanut vendor Sebastion Dinwiddle talking to St. Louis Wolves manager Dexter Broadhurt in the Abbott and Costello comedy skit, “Who’s on First.”
(Guess how you can resolve this issue? Go onto the cable company’s technical website and use the technician’s ID to log on from the order form you signed. Then enter order number, MTA MAC ID from the box, and work description and “Enter here to complete technician work order.” Whatdya know? The technician probably hadn’t yet processed your order. I’m thinking lunch takes precedence. But don’t do it – it’s likely not kosher.)
The moral of this banal tale (which is played out in many guises by customers in multiple industries, every minute of every day): you can Twitter, and you can post, and blog, and poll, and vote – and so can your management. But it is hard to soar like an eagle when you flock with domesticated turkeys. We need our feedback systems in order, and to tramp along with the customer, and listen, listen, listen to the communities, both formal and informal.
Get out of the office a bit more and live the customer’s life.