December 13, 2009

It's the Customer, Not the Technology, Stupid

Two of the finest customer service companies these days are Amazon and Apple. Amazon with free shipping and generous return policy for just about any reason is amazing in their no nonsense customer-service orientation—they inspire virtually complete customer trust. And Apple with their try it, you’ll like it stores full of computers, iPhones, and iPods, as well as their extended product warranties, training classes on products and awesome service desks is just another great customer shopping experience.

We need more of these positive customer experiences:

· Products—products should be true quality through and through (not the shoddy stuff made on the cheap to maximize profit and minimize customer satisfaction).

· Commitment—companies stand by their products with hassle-free money back guarantees (forget the 15% restocking fee, the mandatory return authorization number, and the 4-6 weeks to get your money back).

· Service—customer service has got to be easy to access and quick to resolve problems (banish the cold and calculating automated calling systems with the loop-de-loop dialing—“dial 1 if you want to jump out of a window!”—and where routine service problems are resolved without having to escalate numerous levels to get a supervisor only to then get accidentally disconnected and have to start all over again; oh, and did I forget having to give your basic information over 3 times to each service rep you speak with).

Aside from these basics, we need new ways to improve customer experiences to give the customer an absolutely satisfying experience.

In this regard, I loved the recent commentary by Steve Kelman in Federal Computer Week entitled Customer service Tips From Developing Countries, where some simple yet novel customer service innovations were identified, as follows:

· Chinese Passport Control and Customs provides a kiosk for passengers to “report on their travel experience by pressing a smiley face or a frowning face.” Whoola instant feedback!

· Saudi Arabia ATM Machines, while withdrawing money “offered an option of paying parking fines and some government license fees.” That couldn’t be simpler and quicker.

· Singapore Passport Control “placed a bowl of candy at the counter.” A tiny gesture that goes a long way.

From a simple smiley/frowny face feedback mechanism to a candy bowl as a way to say thank you; it is not rocket-science to be kind, gentle, and caring for customers—most of the time, it’s the basic manners your mother taught you.

In technology, these customer services lessons are especially apropos, since it is easy to get enmeshed in the technology and forget the people and processes that we are supporting. (Or to put it in another way, “it’s the customer, not the technology, stupid!”)


1 comment:

Steve Kelman said...

Andy, I'm really glad you liked these ideas. We oughta try to get them into our government.