Christopher Lochhead, the former chief marketing officer at Scient and then at Mercury until the company was sold to HP last year, follows up on his post about having bad customer service experiences with some top tier brands. In this guest post he offers some practical advice for companies that would rather delight than alienate customers.
In my previous post, I chronicled my recent experiences as a consumer becoming extremely unsatisfied with the level of customer service from companies such as Cingular Wireless, Apple, Etrade and my Toyota car dealer. To prove I am not just a complainer, here is some advice for the companies that are so out of touch with customers, leaving them in a post-purchase wasteland:
Wanna know what it is like to be your customer? Put yourself in the shoes (or Web browsers) of your customers by mystery shopping. Pretend you are your customer and see what happens when you try to do business with your company. This is a common practice in the retail industry. Major retailers pay people to show up in a store and go through the experience of being a customer. They evaluate, how the store looks, how easy it is to find stuff, how helpful the staff is, whether you make a no-hassle return, etc.
Then they report back to the higher-ups on what it is like to be a customer. Steal this idea. Also mystery shop your competition. Then you can experience what customers actually experience with you and your competition. Then ask yourself, “Who would I buy from?” After that, write up a list of changes that need to happen for you to become legendary at servicing customers and implement the list. Then watch your revenue increase.
Proactive Service-Level Management
Most companies in most industries have no idea what kind of experience their customers have. As a matter of fact the first time most companies know there is a problem with their customer-facing processes and applications is when the customer calls the helpdesk to complain (if they can stand to navigate through the IVR). Beyond mystery shopping, you can use technology to proactively manage customer-facing processes and service levels to ensure there is no breakdown in the quality of service. It is amazing that most companies are willing to spend millions on buying/building apps and infrastructure and almost zero on managing the quality, performance, and availability of the applications and services. Companies that lead their industry in customer experience make the management of customer related processes, people, applications and services a proactive function.
Create Killer Technology-based Customer Experiences
One of the reasons the founders of YouTube and MySpace are now picking out the interior colors for their new private jets, is that both companies used new technology (like Adobe Flash) to create compelling customer experiences (no extra plug-in needed for video and music, easy to setup, easy to share and search cool content).
To create more brand loyalty and community Guitar maker Gibson just launched a wiki to allow their customers to document information about the company’s legendary products.
Netflix’s market value is over $1.5B and growing while Blockbuster stock is down over 50 percent over the last five years, and they just fired their CEO. This is in no small part because Netflix created a legendary technology-enabled customer experience (you are probably a customer) for discovering and distributing DVD movies.
Quit Your Job
If steps one, two and three don’t work, quit. Then join a legendary company. Because sooner or later a competitor will figure out how to create a compelling customer experience and crush your (about to be former) employer.
For companies it is clear. Use technology to manage and create compelling customer experiences or get crushed.
For us consumers we can complain (in an effort to get vendors to shape up AND give us free stuff), stop buying from customer-retarded companies, and pray for Netflix to start a car company.
Christopher Lochhead is a retired technology executive, part-time strategy advisor, full-time ski bum, and a grumpy consumer.