How customer data can enhance a service experience
Two years ago I purchased a brand new notebook computer. All too soon a problem developed with the screen. However, my next thought was that I was so glad I bought the warranty — I can just return it!
My first call to the company took me through the whole diagnostic procedure, reinstalling the driver and flashing bios — about an hour’s worth of installations. I was promised this would take care of my problem. Unfortunately, it did not. It was still not fixed after my fourth flashed bios and over 10 hours on the phone.
I made many very frustrating phone calls to that company for more than a year. Every time I called, I had to explain my situation as if it were the first time: Find the serial number, the model number, the warranty number, explain what happened, what had been tried so far, and so on. Each time I was forwarded to their offshore tech support where I often had to start over with the entire procedure, leading to even greater frustration.
Although I received a case number after each call, the company was not able to link back to my history of issues and service calls. When I asked about a replacement notebook, I was kindly reminded that I first had to go through a protocol of three repair attempts, each lasting two weeks plus shipping time, before they would replace anything.
After following company protocol, to no avail, I was given a replacement laptop, but it was a lesser-quality product and I’m not happy with it. The bottom line: the company spent a lot of time and money and I spent a lot of time and frustration, only for an unsatisfactory solution. The company lost a customer over this bad experience.
Compare this with a story I recently read: A person had to contact Amazon about a malfunctioning Kindle he recently purchased and was prepared for the worst. In just 30 seconds after putting in a service request on Amazon’s website his phone rang, and the woman on the other end greeted him by name stating, "I understand you have a problem with your Kindle." The problem was resolved and a replacement ordered in less than two minutes; they had all of the customer’s information on file to process the shipment, and the telephone representative did not try to upsell him to other products.
Both stories are today’s reality; one frustrating, one delightful. Both involve broken gadgets. In the first case the company lost a lot of time, money and a customer. In the second story the company surprised the customer and therefore built trust with him. That kind of customer trust is invaluable to both the customer and the company.
In his recent letter to shareholders Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos explained how Amazon is defining customer experience: "Proactively delighting customers earns trust, which earns more business from those customers, even in new business arenas. Take a long-term view, and the interests of customers and shareholders align."
But it's not just the different understanding of and commitment to the customer experience. What made the Amazon experience better, was the fact that the support rep had immediate access to the data about the customer and therefore was able to solve the problem in just a few minutes. In fact, Amazon collects a lot of information about their customers — not just addresses and payment information, but also previous purchases and even browsing history.
Amazon doesn’t use personal information just to sell more products. They also have the information available when a problem occurs which helps make the problem-solving a pleasant experience, rather than a painful one. Some customers are skeptical about what kind of information a company collects about them. But the Amazon model shows that customer data can be used to benefit the customer and build loyalty. That builds trust and a true customer relationship.