We continue to hear of instances and policies of shoddy customer service from technology companies, even though the industry has just completed a two-decade- long era of service development. Last week we heard of one non-profit organization whose donation processing application went down —and THEY COULDN’T EVEN GET THEIR WEBSITE PROVIDER TO RETURN THEIR CALLS! For non-profits, the last weeks of the calendar year are critical for donation revenue. Losing your donation processing capability at the end of the year is like Wal-Mart losing a point-of-sale device and shutting down a check-out line on Black Friday. Ignoring a service need by the non-profit customer this time of the year was especially poor service performance by the website company.
Service Used to be Low Priority
In the early years of the computer technology industry customer service was regarded as nothing more than a necessary evil within many product manufacturers.Those companies were reluctant to commit funding or investment for service. Product development and manufacturing got all the attention and dollars. This was because most of those companies viewed themselves strategically and operationally as product-driven. They made big margins on the sale of the products, not services. This product-driven model started to change in the mid-80s, as independent service companies brought competition to the post-sale service and support market. In 1987 IBM declared “The
Year of the Customer,”and launched aggressive marketing campaigns into the customer base for services. Today, software and hardware provider Oracle is even trying to control product sales in enduser accounts by using service as leverage.
Readiness to Serve
So, while most technology companies have been developing their service delivery and improving the level of service provided to customers, some companies–like the one cited above —are a going in the opposite direction, still treating service as a low priority. Examples of this are “Call Avoidance” strategies and “Resource Optimization ” programs. If you have given up, and hung up the phone after being bounced around by a call-router (“dial 3 if you want pay your bill, dial 4 if you are reporting a technical problem”), and then listening to 35 minutes of elevator music—if you have given up, and hung up, then you have just participated in a successful “call avoidance” incident with the service organization,— and yes, they measure “abandonment rate”—how many people give up. You have saved them some money, because they didn’t have to have somebody on duty available to talk with you about your problem. And they don’t care—they already got your money when you bought the product—it’s the old product view again.
So–Why do some technology companies provide poor customer service ? Same old, same old—MONEY.
It costs money to sustain readiness to serve–to have the right person with the right skill set available at the right time (when you need them); and companies who are locked in the old ‘we make the money when we sell the product’ mentality tend not to spend the money to have sufficient resources available —readiness to serve. These same companies willingly hire extra developers to help complete the initial work needed for a new customer, but they tend not to commit any cost to being ready to support the product they’ve built and installed.
The Service Mentality
Technology companies who have sustained growth an d achieved high levels of customer satisfaction have adopted a service, rather than product-driven model. They build infrastructure to provide ongoing service delivery to the customers–every day, not just the day they sell the first application. They commit themselves to operating at a state of readiness to serve their customers’ needs; and –oh, yes, they answer the phone when the customer calls.