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I was watching a great Little League baseball game over the weekend.  My son’s team, the Giants, was down by two runs and was one out away from losing the game.  All of a sudden, everything started going wrong for the other team, the Angels. For one reason or another, the Angels just couldn’t get the last out and finish the game.  To make a long story short, the Giants scored five  runs within one-thrid of an inning.  It was the two-out nightmare for the Angels.

This scenario has played out very similarly for many leading product-centric companies (which I won’t name here for obvious reasons).  Like the Angels, they played a great game – they designed a great product.  They took pride in manufacturing their products with high quality, and they packaged them attractively.  They invested a great deal marketing the product and attract many customers who flock to buy the product.   What happens next is the “two-out nightmare” for these organizations.

Inevitably, some of these customers will have questions or encounter problems they can’t solve.  They contact customer service.  Unfortunately, this is where things go wrong.  Many product companies frequently forget to invest in customer service or they simplistically consider it to be a “necessary evil”.  As a result, customers do not receive the same great experience when they begin to interact with customer service.  And it’s usually the little things that make the whole experience bad.  Customers are put on hold for too long, subjected through a long and tedious process of verification, passed around because no one seems to know or understand their problems, or worse yet – they are completely being ignored.  These companies fail to get that “last out” and win their customers – for life.

Don’t get me wrong.  I am not characterizing customer service as a “small” part of the customer experience.  In fact, I believe it is as important and as big as the product itself.  For certain type of product categories like automobiles, smartphones, and music players, customer service can be argued as even more mportant than the products themselves.   But it’s the little misses here and there in customer service that ruin the whole customer experience.

Why is this happening?  My hypothesis is that many of these product-centric companies are approaching the market without using their customer experience lenses.  They assume that customers are only interested in the product and their experience with that product.  But this is only 80% of the picture.  Just like the Angels, they are missing an important part.  And because of that, they may very well have – like the Angels – lost the game.

According to Kerry Bodine, Analyst at Forrester Research and co-author of “Outside In”, companies are leaving a lot of money on the table by not focusing on the complete customer experience.  Conservatively, Forrester estimated that this omission costs a typical electronic manufacturer about $92 million in annual sales.  Furthermore, its stock price could also drop as much as 46% over a five-year period.  These are strong enough financial results to warrant focusing on the complete customer experience.

So here’s my plea to the product innovative companies out there.  Your customers love your products.  But don’t just stop there.  Don’t stop playing when it is already two outs at the bottom of the last inning.  Finish the game!  Deliver the complete experience, from great product to great customer service.  To get started, check out another book called: “The Customer Experience Edge” by V. Iyer, R. Soudagar, and V. Hildebrand.   It has many great case studies of real-life companies that have perfected their game.    Get this right and your customers will love you for life and financial reward your company. 

So what is it like to offer the right customer service?  This is what we think, “supercharged customer service.

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