Wednesday, February 21, 2007

More on Customer Service

Clearly, I'm not the only one who is hoping to start a bandwagon about the need (and the good business sense) for keeping customers satisfied.

Kathy Sierra, who writes the blog "Creating Passionate Users" has a wonderful post called "What tail is wagging the "user happiness" dog?"

She's writing about the problems that arise when the needs of the company overrule the needs of the customer.

You can't swing a poodle in business without hitting a tail-wagging-the-dog scenario, where some process, policy, procedure, or program controls user happiness. Where we become slaves to the needs and demands of the IT department, efficiency, accounting, PR, legal, marketing, next-quarter's results, Upper Management, etc.

She's got a great idea for anyone who needs to keep things in perspective. Just put a picture of a dog up on the wall, to keep everyone thinking about who's tail is doing the wagging.

Kathy also points to a really well-written post by Joel Spolsky, the CEO of Fog Creek Software in New York.

He writes about his small company's methods for making sure that they respond to the needs of their customers and how much they've benefitted by doing so. It's a great story and one that I recommend highly.

As a bootstrapped software company, Fog Creek couldn’t afford to hire customer service people for the first couple of years, so Michael and I did it ourselves. The time we spent helping customers took away from improving our software, but we learned a lot and now we have a much better customer service operation.

Here are seven things we learned about providing remarkable customer service. I’m using the word remarkable literally—the goal is to provide customer service so good that people remark.

The seven items he lists are:
1. Fix everything two ways

2. Suggest blowing out the dust

3. Make customers into fans

4. Take the blame

5. Memorize awkward phrases

6. Practice puppetry

7. Greed will get you nowhere

Of course, he's got a lot more detail and some great stories behind those seven points. But I'm sure that if more companies thought along the same lines and truly put the needs of their customers' first, the benefits for everyone would be astounding.

It's a simple idea - and perhaps that's the problem. We've allowed our companies to become so complex that we can't believe that so many problems can be alleviated by making sure that we practice good manners and be polite to people. It just seems so obvious we can't believe it could work.

Sad but true, apparently, as Air Canada exhibits so regularly.

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