Customer Service Excellence:
Last week I posted a little rant about how MS annoys me with a poorly designed news feed customization interface (from a customer point of view). However, all experiences aren’t so frustrating as that one.
Take, for example, my recent experience working with a gentleman known as John (@jo4nny8). I use one of his plug-ins, called WP Post Nav, on this blog. The latest update to the WordPress software caused a small problem that was seen only on the back-end. I finally took a few minutes to track John down, explained the issue, and within hours, he had a new
version of his plug-in for me to try. The first attempt did not resolve the issue, so John tried again. The second try worked just fine.
So kudos and a shout-out to John. Excellent work. As usual, this whole thing got me thinking about the business challenges around excellence in customer service.
The question for John and us, though, is how to scale up excellent customer service. From time-to-time, I have this difficulty myself. I am usually working on my own. I provide the services and do all the communicating. When there is a peak workload, some things go by the wayside.
That is, of course, the dilemma every sole proprietor runs into. While delivering the services to paying clients, marketing, and business development tasks languish. Then, of course, the time comes when one must scramble to secure more clients or to deliver more services to the same set of clients.
In sales, we used to remind customers that they could have any two items between Quality, Delivery, or Price, but not all three. For example, the customer should expect excellent quality and quick delivery, but we would have to increase the price to do that. They could have excellent quality, competitive price, but the delivery would be the standard lead-time. They could not expect to have excellent quality, competitive price, and short lead times.
There seems to be a corollary for sole proprietors: we can provide two out of three items between many customers, many products, excellent customer service. Meaning that if we have many customers and many products, then customer service will be slow. Customer service may still be great, but it will take longer to resolve issues. On the other hand, we can have excellent customer service, and many clients if we have only a few products.
I choose to focus on one product (coaching business leaders) to provide the best service to a reasonable number of clients. Other sole proprietors are making similar decisions.
Customer service is daunting, and in many cases, very difficult to scale. If you sell a technical product, what is the balance between technical expertise and people skills for a customer service representative? Many companies have several layers of technical expertise to back up a customer service team that is more generalist than technical.
Other companies have put the customer service function on the customer. They use technology to provide online self-service. Recently I needed to amend an online order. I had to first deal with a chatbot that could not help me (for reasons too complicated to share here). After several tries and about 10 minutes, I figured out how to get to a human on the chat. That went much better, and we did get the issue resolved.
I believe that customer service is going to be the differentiator as we move forward. That means using technology with an intuitive and efficient user interface. It also means making sure a customer can get to a human being when technology (read that Artificial Intelligence) cannot solve the problem.