After briefly participating in last night’s #custserv chat, I found myself dissatisfied with chats like these via a medium like that. I like to get definitions straightened out and agreed upon when they get “volatile” so to say. So, for future chats, please find a web page that does (and can be scanned in a few seconds thank you).
Or maybe I was the odd one out and everyone happily agreed on all the terms? Lawd knows.
Back to the subject: customer service and outsourcing. Wiki’s definition suits me:
Customer service is the provision of service to customers before, during and after a purchase.
In the ideal situation, a product is that good that it doesn’t need WOM, or simply publicity, and will sell itself – meaning no customer will ever have to rely on before-purchase service of your product. The other ideal situation is that it never breaks down or fails, and is so intuitive that it is idiot-proof – meaning no customer will ever have to rely on after-purchase service either.
It stands without reasoning that such a great product doesn’t need service during a purchase either. Bear with me please.
Outsourcing then? According to the magnificent wiki,
Outsourcing or sub-servicing often refers to the process of contracting to a third-party.
Handing over to perfect strangers is what I’d say.
Having agreed on both definitions, here’s the deal: I think the percentage of customer service usually spent if pre-sales is next to nothing – unless you call advertising a customer service. Chicken and egg really, if you haven’t sold a product to your customer, there isn’t a customer, hence there can be no service to speak off. So, let’s agree that the vast majority of customer service is spent in aftersales – unless, of course, your product needs lots of customer care while selling it; now that would be bad, wouldn’t it?
Products have an installation guide, or a user guide. This is 2011 so no time for excuses, if your product hasn’t, that can only be because it’s so magically intuitive that even your toddlers fully grasp its user interface at once. So, the product is self-containing, self-sustaining, and that’s the rule – the exception is that it isn’t. Due to the product, or the user – irrelevant. For exceptions, customer service is called.
If your customer service exists of people reading you a checklist and ticking off boxes, you should have included that into the manual. If your customer exists of anything else but exception-handling humans, you left money on the table by not adding a few rules into the manual, or product itself. Basically, what I’m saying is this:
If your customer service is handling rules rather than exceptions, your product is crap. At least more or less.
So, good customer service handles exceptions. It is a pure, 100% people-business, with people that are highly familiar with your product. They know the ins and outs of your products, how it is used, and have the brain power and creativity, deep product and customer knowledge and insight, to brainstorm why this really unknown exception, for which you contacted them, occurred.
So, now I ask you: how can a complete stranger be better at helping your customers solve their exceptions? Pardon me, I mean your exceptions, for it is your product?
(Cross-posted @ Business or Pleasure? – why not both)