It doesn’t take Peter Drucker or John Locke or Bodhisattva for that matter to understand that when you sell to a customer you are entering into an implicit relationship. Buyer and seller is an exchange of value, and each side believes they come out of the experience with a value add. In my business, for example, we try by all means to understand what balance of technology insight and business process insight clients want from us in exchange for their budget dollars. We poll them, create peer-to-peer networks, survey them, invite them into the CEO’s office, listen to their verbatim remarks to us and watch the Web traffic for key trends, readings, and words searched.
But my business is simpler than most. What about your business? Can you really say, with the certainty of a person who will be fired if they answer incorrectly, that you KNOW how each customer feels about your fulfillment of the enterprise/customer pact? Do you KNOW how each would rank you? Do you know if they would leave you for a competitor if they, the customer, had a better alternative. Or worse: which customers WILL leave you during their next buying cycle?
Here is the thing: I’ve worked with 12 business just this week, in high tech, financial advisory services, banking and manufacturing, and almost every client wanted to discuss social networking techniques. That is great, because it is an exciting topic and there is a lot of ‘cool stuff’ happening. Most of the technology is really just e-learning / distance learning software on steroids, but apart from that, it’s a blast.
Yet the big secret (it must be, as I started a new paragraph mid-thought, in an “A Prayer for Owen Meany” gesture) is that basic customer processes are in shambles, yet we forge ahead instead – versus IN ADDITION TO (that’s the John Irving moment) – of running two tracks: 1) dig deeper on the basics of customer experience bottlenecks and 2) build social fabrics that foster client engagement with each other.
By the way: the Cable Guy story from last week? Tragi-Comic update. They promised to waive the first month’s fee of $300 as an apology for the horrendous service in installing Triple Play. They did take one full week to come back and fix the work they had botched the first time. Then they went ahead and sent the $300 first-month’s bill anyway.
So, what happened? Well, this company (not Verizon, not Cablevision, not ATT) has a quasi monopoly in NYC. The young woman (who still wonders what Triple Play means in a world of no fixed phone lines. “ok, I’ve got fiber in the house – what’s the Triple?” So I say it’s a long story about dinosaurs.) calls the company and says, “You were going to waive this $300!” The CSR says, “Ma’am, we never waive bills because of complaints about service!”
Well, they didn’t know that they had awakened the Dogs from Hell. Said young woman asked for and got a supervisor who said, “Yes, I see in our notes that you were promised a fee waiver this month, but we don’t actually do that.” Oy vay. Don’t start. After an impassioned harrangue about customer rights, the customer convinced the company to honor their promise. And the repair guy who came yesterday? Well, he came, even though the visit was cancelled, because the young woman got a friend in the building to re-wire the boxes and all is working just fine.
How fine is your customer service, and how will the social network help refine broken processes? Or is something else amiss?