Over the past few years, I've had exciting opportunities to help transform Infrastructure Organizations from being focused on Technology to being focused on delivering Customer Value. How do we shift to focusing on the Services we provide in an easy to consume fashion from the a la carte menus of bits and bytes that our consumers have to try and make sense of. How do we manage and promote those services with out getting lost in versions, hardware, risk, components, denial, etc.
I started life working in retail, a fantastic battle ground for understanding customer service. We've often heard rule number 1 is the customer is always right, rule number 2 was refer back to rule number 1. I believe we often assumed, the only customer input we had was from those that actually stopped to say something about their experience. A negative experience often gets reported, a positive experience often went un-reported - as it was expected. I remember a time when Serving a customer was drilled into me by two of my leaders. Delight the customer, give them what they need, better yet, help them find what they didn't know they needed. Around this time I was promoted to a leadership role, and had the responsibility of instilling Customer Service Principles into my team. The results of a new Nielsen Survey had also emerged on the retail scene about the same time. The data showed that above all, Americans expected price value. They concluded that the reason Wal-Mart was gaining market share above all others was because they had the lowest price. Service was not even number two, it was price and selection. I struggled with this data point, because on my team Customer Service was job number 1. That's what Customer Support Managers do.
Fast forward a few years, and many new experiences of being both a consumer and a producer. We've all seen the memes floating around about Wal-Mart closing 296 stores, did their prices go up? Did their selection go down? It would seem if they don't have traffic to support those stores, than surely something was changing. Then I thought about my own habits as a consumer. How did I conduct my Christmas Shopping? How do I get things on a daily basis? Amazon makes a delivery to our house almost every day. They are not the lowest price, but it is convenient, and I don't have to wait until I have the time to get out and about to get stuff. I can push a button, they know what I like, and it shows up in a day or two right at my door step. If it turns out to not be the right item, either because I didn't like it, or I read the description wrong, I can push another button and it goes right back, quickly and efficiently. It seems my customer input is I prefer convenience and service over price, as long as it's a fair price. This all clicked into focus for me this evening as we were grabbing a quick salad and pizza at California Pizza Kitchen. We had a waitress that had waited on us a few times, was very friendly and efficient, the food was delicious and the experience was good overall. I looked at our receipt as I checked out, and there was one of those surveys, Tell us how we did, let us know what you think. We generally only fill those out if it was completely horrible or was way above and beyond our expectation to the positive. That made me think, what if for the Nielsen Survey 20 years or so ago, the only people that responded were the people that had abundant time on their hands, and their only focus was getting the best price, no matter what? What if the lion share of busy spenders, were too busy managing the many aspects of their busy lives to weigh in on what was important to them. Are they now voicing their opinion through the results that Amazon has grown from 6.9 Billion Dollars of sales in 2006 to 89 Billion Dollars of sales in 2014? Zappos is seen as a clear leader in customer service and people prefer them. So I believe Service is important, and it does matter, we also need to make sure we as consumers are voicing our opinions and thoughts on how it could be better, and that it was good - or good enough that we were pleased and will be back. What do I value? Service, Simplicity, Ease of Execution, Follow up and that personal touch - that touch that says - Hey -you are important to us, and we want to see you back. I think I need to go fill out that survey.