“Press 23 if you actually think we have an answer to your question.” We all know the drill. Get comfortable, settle back in your easy chair and prepare for the challenge to pick the right numbers to press to find out why your new TV just blew up.
Successful companies grow, and first on their list is to automate as many systems and processes as possible. During that quest to eliminate every single employee from the workforce, customer service turns digital – the scourge of all mankind.
Customers become dissatisfied, even irate as they notice they no longer seem to matter to those whose cash registers they fill. Discontented customers cause employees to lose their Esprit de Corps. Employee incentive declines and innovative ideas die on the vine. Companies unknowingly lose track of the overall value of good customer service and its relationship to revenue and net income.
Do Founders Understand?
Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon and an energetic, capable and caring entrepreneur, is filled with innovative ideas that are changing the very nature of retail and beyond. He’s changing things we all thought could never change. We’re all on the edge of our seats to see what he has in store for us next.
Like any founder/CEO, Mr. Bezos cares deeply about his customers. But even those who are dedicated to pleasing the customer lose their original vision as the company grows.
The founder doesn’t forget the customer is the life-blood of the company. However, the sheer size of the behemoth distances the founder from how the customer is treated. Customer service unknowing slips dangerously downhill.
Amazon has reached this point. As Amazon takes on more products, services and markets, they’re going to lose customers if their level of customer service continues to plummet.
The Background of the Problem
As customers increase their sensitivity to price, quality and service expectations — due to ever-expanding global competition — organizations must shift to a higher standard of customer service. Good customer service is also an important strategy to attract new customers and better cement existing customers to the company.
There is plenty of research behind the fact that providing quality products and excellence in customer service instills customer loyalty and repeat business.
The overall customer perception of a product extends the tangible component of the product itself. This perception includes the customer service experience that can add substantial perceived value to the product and the company.
Successful organizations acknowledge the risk of substandard customer service and invest in strategies that can bridge customer service value and enhance the long-term positive customer relationship.
When given a choice, most of us would deal with a company that has the best customer service, all other things being equal. The employee is the lifeblood of customer service. Job seekers, employees and employers need to focus on and understand the relationship that customer service has on the success of the company. This is a team effort, not left to just the CEO to think about.
Failed Efforts of the Past
Many US companies toyed with shipping customer service to India. The people on the other end of the customer service line had names we couldn’t pronounce. Later, they all miraculously changed their names to Mike and Sue – which didn’t help matters much.
In spite of Mike and Sue really trying hard to please us, the cultural and language barrier made it difficult to effectively communicate and solve our customer service issues. Customer focused companies are seeing the light and bringing these jobs home.
New dilemma: Higher labor costs in the US push companies to cut customer service costs by automating as much of the customer service experience as possible,
- Please check our frequently asked questions (pages 8 through 23 of the Welcome Customer Training Manual) for all your customer service needs.
- Type here for a live chat with our customer service experts: Mike and Sue.
- E-mail us with your questions and our customer service concierge will surely put you on his or her list of preferred customers.
- Let us know if our automated response to your perceived needs remotely met at least an insignificant portion of your expectations (press 187).
Customers Need to Feel Authentically Appreciated
Early on with Amazon we could actually talk to a caring and concerned person. These customer service representatives were always very friendly, knowledgeable, eager and interested in spending whatever time it took to solve our customer issues.
I always had a good experience talking with these people and I like thanking them “in person.” They would respond with a nice e-mail and ask me to grade them. They always got plenty of stars from me. Interactivity at its finest! All was good!
But Amazon has joined the ranks of the: “We love our customers we just don’t want to help them once we have their credit card number in our one click purchase system.” They dialed back from top-notch service to, what is used in engineering, “good enough.” This means this product or service will meet the minimum requirements.
That’s a legitimate strategy in some circles – why design every product capable of landing a man on the moon. But Amazon’s use of that strategy for customer service won’t attract new customers or ensure customer loyalty.
Not Just Picking on Amazon
It’s not just Amazon; companies like Hewlett-Packard and many others continue to face the same issue. Amazon is just my poster child to serve as a warning to companies who lose sight of the critical importance of excellence in customer service. They won’t see the real damage that taking their eye off the ball — the customer service focus — until it’s too late.
Jeff, I know — that you know — that morphing your customer service experience into a button pressing exercise will turn off your customers. And you know — that I know — your original vision included the notion of consistently operating a positive customer experience including top customer service.
None of us want to go back to the corner store and pay little bit more. But we will if you won’t treat us like customers who you really appreciate, as well as real people you need and want to keep happy for the long-term.