The Comcast brouhaha that made today’s news struck a chord. I’m all for taking customer care seriously. One of my jobs in a previous life was as a customer service manager. It helped me understand simple ways to truly improve the customer experience. So it’s difficult for me to watch as many organizations put processes in place that give the appearance of caring about customers but that are poorly designed or badly executed, or both. These actions scream a message that says “we only care how you feel if you remain a customer and continue to pay us money.” There is little doubt that money is the issue and any significant customer dissatisfaction issues will be ignored.
Here are a few examples of practices that appear to be customer oriented but really aren’t:
- The company that makes offers to attract new customers that they do not allow existing customers to take advantage of, but then makes those same offers to ex-customers – but only after they cancel their subscription.
- The company that ignores customer complaints, but then calls the customer to tell them how much they “value their business” when the contract is up for renewal.
- The company that, in an effort to stay in touch with customer sentiment, makes contact via multiple channels but not in an integrated way i.e. company agent calls and talks with the customer but the customer still gets pinged via email by someone who is not aware the phone call took place.
- The customer satisfaction survey sent out to every single customer for every single interaction regardless of how trivial it was.
- The greeter in the store who can’t answer even one of your questions.
So what to do? The simple summary advice is to look at customer feedback as a way to not only improve existing processes, but to solicit ideas on what will become key differentiators. This means that responsible people need to collect and act on what they learn. Rather than being a source of irritation, negative feedback presents and opportunity. While this sounds like a cliché, it is in fact a proven innovation technique. The contention is that “lead users’ or “extreme customers” are already adapting products in ways that will eventually become mainstream. The faster an organization can pick up on these “long tail” customers, the easier it will be for them to remain competitive.
There is little disagreement that social media and the ubiquity of information potential buyers have at their disposal make it difficult for any organization to convert customer touch points into exceptional branded moments that drive loyalty and advocacy. But this is what every organization needs to do. And this is not just the responsibility of the customer service organization, it’s everybody’s job.
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