verse to accompany this—with apologies to "Where Have All
the Flowers Gone?")
Where has all the Service gone?
Gone to outsource, everyone ...
When will they ever learn? When will they ever learn?
Where have all the Customers gone?
Gone ballistic, every one!!
When will they ever learn? When will they ever learn?
presidential debates included predictable topics. More relevant than
political rhetoric is voter perception of what this means to them.
The cost of a gallon of milk, a gallon of gasoline, or a pack of cigarettes
will have more impact than the war with Iraq and esoteric issues. Recognizing
this, Kerry aligned himself with the American worker, bewailing lost jobs and
promising legislation to penalize companies that outsource. Laudable sentiments.
Dramatic, when translated by press coverage.
reality is that controls in support of environmental issues, regulation, and
legislation have created a situation where it is economically unviable to manufacture
consumer goods in many geographies. Emerging economies, less concerned with
the longer term impact of pollutants than the immediate gratification of full
stomachs and vodka glasses, are reaping the benefits of social conscience and
sustainability policies. More legislation and control is not the answer—this
has always proved to be a double-edged sword. Automotive, textile, and other
industries that imposed embargoes, penalties, and trade restrictions bear testimony
and technology challenge rules and create disruption. The industrial revolution
changed the demographics of the world—forever. Workers were drawn from their
agrarian base to growing cities by the promise of higher wages, shorter hours,
and enhanced lifestyle. Waves of technology crashed through the 1900s leaving
in their wake further changes. Men moved from smoke stack industries to white-collar
positions. Armies of women joined the workforce, initially as hand maidens to
the men in suits, evolving to corner offices of their own, as the personal assistant
changed into digital form. In the unwired world of today, the immediacy of the
Internet has transcended geographical boundaries. The physical becomes irrelevant.
Activities taking place in Beijing that result in electronics for European markets
are no more disruptive than the economic revolution that enabled creation of
uniform products anywhere in the world.
greater concern is the fact that the most intangible of corporate assets—customer
satisfaction—is now being outsourced. In almost frenzied fashion, major corporations—who
should know better—are placing their customers, the source of their income,
in the hands of the uncaring.
for example the consumer electronics industry. Symbiotic relationships between
manufacturers and retailers are reinforced by sales and margin growth. Manufacturers
support their products with incentives, discounts, and rebates. Retailers provide
the point of purchase, to include zero percent financing, enabling consumers
to take home the latest gizmo and gadget immediately. Another revenue generator
is the extended warranty'. Sales personnel at specialty retailers urge the
innocent to purchase these, in many cases at exorbitant cost. Yes, the product
has a warranty, but of course this is limited, and the customer would be well
served to protect this new investment.
What happened to the lifetime value of the customer?
in itself should be a warning! Where is the manufacturer in this picture? What
happened to the lifetime value of the customer? And whose product is
it anyway?? After-sales service is increasingly part of the value add—product
lifecycle does not end at the retail check-out. Product performance as promised
challenges the future of the manufacturer/consumer relationship. Brand loyalty
is hard won—product differentiation is in many cases based on perception. This
is one remaining area where manufacturers can impact true future demand. But
for some reason, once the product moves into the retail channel, most manufacturers
lose control. When faced with a problem, the consumer is alone! The retailer
abdicates responsibility. The product is still under the manufacturer's warranty
(call a toll-free number). Or, more commonly, this has just expired. Yes, you
purchased the extended warranty, but this has been outsourced. You need to call
a toll-free number. The agony begins. A recording instructs you to select from
multiple options. By the end of this first message you have forgotten what they
were! More canned music followed by more choices. If you are really tenacious,
you are finally connected with a living being. From the heavy accent it is apparent
that Bert' or Nancy' is more likely to go home to an apartment in Mumbai than
Memphis. Cost cutting is at epidemic levels and the Holy Grail of the customer
experience—customer support—is now being outsourced to the lowest bidder. Contracts
are negotiated based on hourly rates for call handling. Technicians and so-called
support personnel are trained based on canned scripts and English language idiom,
ignoring the key ingredient—customer satisfaction!
there is light at the end of the tunnel. Forward thinking retailers like Nordstrom
have empowered their personnel to do whatever it takes' to ensure true customer
satisfaction. No matter where or when the product was purchased, issues are
resolved with a smile. The ambiance, the piano player and the wonderful consumer
experience more than compensate for a potentially higher price than at the alternative
low price leaders'. Service industries have also embraced that philosophy—Ritz
Carlton personnel treat each guest like a celebrity—hospitality takes on a new
meaning. Supermarkets are recognizing the value of customer loyalty programs.
And even the desk-top shop and ship', a potentially clinical process, has many
enablers are more common with on-line retailers—software programs recognize
repeat buyers, personalizing the purchasing experience. Suggestions are made
with regard to products that might appeal, based on purchase history. Accessories
are recommended to accompany new selections, the whole interactive experience
creating an illusion of intimacy. And even those companies that have chosen
to outsource the after sales service' element can create a satisfying experience
through the use of technology—number and voice recognition in combination with
software programs, scheduled call routing, and other tools that smooth the bumps.
But technology is only an enabler—the human element is the critical factor.
Best practice at the process level should be identified and consistently applied.
Problem resolution should be standardized through hands-on' experience, achieved
during support analyst training through
and analyzing real-time and recorded problem resolution by competent analysts
desk' experience, supported by mentoring program
that support a consistent process, prompts, links, etc.
knows—maybe technology will once again change the rules and enable the creation
of consistent and high quality customer service—no matter who or where the players
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