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John Goodman (author of Strategic Customer Service, Co-founder Tarp Worldwide) estimates that only one in ten companies provides the kind of IT-informed support for lasting retention of customers. He claims that almost 50% of companies are lulled into the unverified belief that good support obtains due to the fact that the company gathers its general impression from the small number of aggrieved customers that call. However, it is just the case that only about 10% of customers are sufficiently motivated to act on their complaints. Additionally, 50% of companies, says Goodman, view customer service almost exclusively as a cost to be minimized. In other words, there is nothing like widespread enlightenment on the positive relationship between good support and the bottom line.
Enlightened companies are not only trying to respond to their customers. They are trying to provide them with products and services before they have inquired about them. Goodman refers to the phenomenon in terms of “psychic pizza.” “This is what happens when I ring your doorbell and say, ‘Here is the pizza you were about to order,’” Goodman has said. The object is to beat the customer to the phone, thereby saving support resources and truly impressing the consumer (6:18-8:03). And IT should be integral in the timely and accurate anticipation of customer need.The utility industry has adopted aspects of this approach. It used to be that calls complaining of a power outage were mapped for diagnostic purposes. Now utility companies want to be able to inform phoning customers on their first call that the company is not only aware of the outage but also offer a good estimate of when service will be restored. The utility industry has been especially diligent in exploiting efficiencies online (23:15-26:58).One of the most common complaints from customers is that the company promising delivery of a product or service ties them down at home for hours at a time. It is not unusual, for example, to be given an 8-hour span for delivery, effectively confining the consumer to his or her home. Yet the technology certainly exists to obviate this old way of conducting business. Devices as familiar as GPS can be employed to provide customer information on where the delivery vehicle at issue presently is and its earliest possible arrival time. And that means that a customer who has learned that the delivery cannot possibly take place before noon has been liberated to enjoy the morning in or out of the house. All kinds of industries are adopting this intelligent approach to customer service (21:33-22:50).
Research indicates that good customer service creates less sensitivity to price in the buying public. On the other hand, customer complaints that go unresolved heighten sensitivity to price. A good experience creates positive word of mouth, and support plays a key role in the shape of a buying experience. According to John Goodman, revenue gains are ten to twenty times outlays with respect to customer service investments. An enlightened CIO should help make the economic case to business managers within the company (33:12-33:42).A common problem is that customer service representatives are too often overwhelmed with calls and hence tempers grow short. This is unfortunate in that customer satisfaction goes up 25% if there is a single expression of empathy from a representative. But such expressions take both time and inclination. When customer service is a low company priority, the calls can deluge representatives who have no incentive to take more time with any given call. Yet readily available technology can prevent just such a demoralizing logjam. If traffic is handled properly, there is communicated both the message that the support team is valued and that its function is taken seriously (i.e. a more empathetic exchange can occur with enough time and motivation). Goodman, however, sees such an approach as elementary. He goes further and talks of using technology to “delight” the customer, and the evidence concerning revenue gains supports his argument (48:17-50:13).