It is a topic that comes up often at work, but never mind that right now. I want to talk about service in my backyard. In my living room, on the phone, and wherever I might be. We all want it right? When we go into the store we want the person working in the store to not bug us too much, but be extremely helpful when we are ready for their help. We want to know when we call our bank or credit card company that they will help us with their questions, and make us feel good about the choices we have made to be a patron of their company. They make money off us right? So why should we be made to feel like we owe them?
Here are a couple of recent examples — and by recent, I mean in the last week. There is not enough time in my day to even list out all from the past month. Yes, I am a service addict and I tend to never forget how I was treated by companies. Really, if you think about it, service levels leave a permanent, laser-etched mark in your mind about their brand. You never forget a horrible service experience and you rarely forget an amazing one — if you ever have one.
Anyway, on to the examples:
Redbox: Over the weekend we reserved a movie on the Redbox app. When Chris went to pick it up, the machine did not work, so he went to another kiosk and rented from there – but since we weren’t able to pick up the movie at the kiosk we reserved it at, we needed to let them know so they would not charge us and so they could be alerted to the problem. Now, I do not care about the $1.50 I was charged, but I do care about principle. If everyone that reserved a movie at that machine did not contact them, how much are they making on their customers, and how many customers would they frustrate?
Their response to our email? They’ll give us a “credit” for another movie to use in the next 30 days. Sorry, but I actually paid for two movies, not one. So credit my account for the amount I was charged in error for your faulty machine. I rarely use Redbox and most likely I am not going to remember to use my “credit.” Plus, I might not even have the chance to use it in the next 30 days. Their solution is better for them, but not for the customer.
Contractors: Dating back to last May we have contacted over 30 contractors to do work on our house. Out of the 30+, maybe 5 have actually followed through with the appointment, and 2 of the 5 have given us bids. I know it is a booming housing market and they have all the business they can possibly handle, but do they realize how brand damaging it is? Service = following through with appointments, calling customers back, and providing bids so homeowners can make educated decisions. We cannot do any of that without contractors providing a very easy service. If you are one of the 30 you will never have our business – your brand has already been damaged.
Why oh why is it so hard for companies to see that one of the most important parts of how they communicate with their customers is how they serve them? With there being more and more options available from many different companies, if you can move or change companies or providers and find one that actually understands how to take care of customers, then those are the companies that are going to make it. It is all in the little things and in the details. Follow through, be accountable for problems, and fix them is the brand image customers remember.
this is an interesting topic as i am a contrarian in this. I see the use of “serve them” and completely disagree with this thought process.
i am a firm believer of Smith’s invisible hand – that “it is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.” that the engagement, the relationship is of symbiosis – that an expert in the field is being asked to do work for something in return – not because customer is always right. our modern economy is based on highly specialized workers. 100 years ago, this was kinda the case. 250 years ago, this was a bit of the case (you had coopers, smiths, merchant – ’bout it). as a result of this, we are required to pay others for their specialization whether it is to build a house or to rent their equipment.
in examples, services are provided by Redbox so you don’t have to buy ($20 DVD or Apple iTunes) or rent movies via iTunes ($5 for 24 hours with a $99 investment) or via your cable / satellite company (about the same). And their model makes rentals cheaper even though they have a very liberal return policy due to this (remember “please be kind and rewind”) and that why people use it versus the more convenient streaming via cable/sat/apple. but in the razor thin margin world, customer service is not a priority – you get what you pay for.
contracting is on the opposite end of the spectrum – you pay them for their process, their knowledge and their contacts. you have every ability to engage masons, framers, electricians, plumbers, dry wallers, painters, siders, roofers and inspectors on your own. It just will require time for you to find them, engage them, understand their needs and manage your job site. time here is money and that’s why you pay about 10% premium for their knowledge. why they are not rushing to call you back is simple – so few people are actually both personally and financially ready for a project that they’d run. as a result, time spent quoting is time not spent on their job sites. there’s also the filter that if you call back, then maybe you’re interested. lastly, a lot of their intellectual property can be figured out with their quotations. What is their $ per cubic yard of basement, their $ per square foot of wall, $ per square foot of bathroom or kitchen. This is part of their magic sauce and the more quotes out there, the easier it is for competitors (either other contracting co’s or you) to figure these out.
anyway, back to work!