How you should orient your precious telecom budget in today's tight times.
by Harry Newton
I watched TV this morning. They advertised a product I wanted. I called the company. It was closed.
I sent an email to one of those sales@theircompany email addresses. I got back an automated reply. I'd hear from them within 72 hours. I never did.
I bought a scanner from the world's largest scanner company, Hewlett-Packard. My son lost the disk. The wouldn't let me download the software over the Internet. The ONLY way I could get it was to pay them $10 and wait three weeks for a CD. The software had no commercial value. Its only value was for running their scanner.
I call innumerable companies for information on their products only to get totally tangled up in automated attendant machines ” "Dial 1 for this, Dial 2 for that..." Never do I hear an option that's for me. In desperation, I hit zero ” only to be told that I've just made "an invalid selection."
Fred Goodwin, the CEO of the Royal Bank of Scotland, rapidly becoming one of the world's largest banks, says, "Customers hate call centers with a passion because it verges on the miraculous if they are ever able to get back to the same operator" (and by definition get what they want done).
If the vast number of companies make life so difficult for their customers and potential customers, what are we investing so much money on all this fancy telecom technology? Making the customer's life better is where I always start when I implement technology. How can what I do bring me more customers? How can what I do allow me to hold my customers tighter to my bosom? How can what I do allow me to sell my customers more of my products and services? To my tiny brain, the only reason we go to work in the morning is to please our customers.
Thinking this way puts telecom and computing technology into perspective. Let's try asking ourselves a few simple questions:
Can my customers reach my company 24 hours a day, seven days a week? By voice and by Internet?
When they reach a representative from my company, will they reach someone who wants to and can help? Or will they reach someone who is hog- tied by time-consuming , stupid rules ” like having to transfer the call into another queue to reach the "engineer," forcing me to wait 35 minutes on eternity hold.
Does the web site have a phone number and an email address? Is someone around who can answer my email ” without making me wait 72 hours? Is that person empowered to help me, like negotiating small items, like sending me a replacement disk.
What happens if the salesperson at your firm needs to bring someone else in? Can they quickly reach someone else? Does your phone system conference well? Do they understand the importance of getting back fast to customers?
Is my web site easy and logical to get around? Is there information on the web site that helps the customer understand how to use the products and how to buy new ones.
Can someone easily find the products our company makes? Are all our specifications and prices detailed? In contrast to a paper advertisement, the Web is of unlimited size . It costs virtually nothing to fill a web site with extensive specifications on all the company's products. Better yet, the more information on the Web, the fewer dumb questions my expensive people have to answer. It's amazing how most companies ignore the simplest information on their products ” like their full technical specifications, the cost, what colors they come in, what the availability is...
Is my web site logical? For example, if you ask a leading airline for all its flights from New York to Los Angeles, it won't tell you about flights from Newark or those to John Wayne or Long Beach Airports. Why? Who knows ? Too much fun technology. Not enough thinking about the customer.
Can someone buy something from me on my web site? Or do they have to go to another web site ” for example a distributor, whose web site is no longer working? What about spare parts? Are they readily available? does my web site have exploded diagrams of the products I sell and thus the parts that may need fixing or replacing?
Do I provide something of value on my web site that my customers can use? For example, if I'm a credit card company, do I allow my customers to find out how much they owe me? Will I allow them to download their accounts into their own Quicken software? Ditto for brokerage companies.
Do I regularly check with my customers for their reactions to how well my computing and communications systems work? Microsoft tested one of its Office releases on 25,000 people. How often do you ask your customers, "How are we doing? What can we do better?"
How easy is it for my largest and most important customers to reach people at my company? Do my salespeople carry cell phones, Blackberries, laptops, etc. Do my engineers hide behind voice mail or do they solve my customers' problems? Why do emails to salespeople take so long to be answered ?
How much can I shift the burden and expense of my people selling you, the customer, to you buying yourself ” self-service over the web. Airlines are giving discounts if I buy my ticket over the Internet. They share their employee savings with their customer. Some companies take my credit card and download me my software. Saves me waiting three weeks for UPS. Saves me disposing of all that packaging. Gives me instant gratification. How can you use computing, networking and communications to give instant gratification. Customers like buying directly on a web site if it's easy and fun to use. Check www.llbean.com. It's one the of the easiest sites to use. I also like dealing with Fromuth. I call up and say "send me a carton of tennis balls." Two days later I have my balls. Fromuth retains my address, phone number and my credit card. I don't have to repeat all my information. I prefer it that way.
That's it. End of lecture.