Thursday, May 31, 2007

Customers from Mars, Companies from Venus

Alan Moore and Tomi Ahonen describe the difficulty companies have listening and responding to their customers in their book Communities Dominate Brands under the heading 'Customers from Mars, Companies from Venus'.
Here's an example - an email I've had to send a Toyota dealership today. So far, the only response has been of the automated variety... Where's my two-way flow?

"I turned up this morning with my car to be told you had expected me on May 23.

"My diary only ever showed one date, May 31, I can absolutely assure you.

"I believe May 23 may have initially been offered but was rejected because a courtesy car was not available.

"Whatever the case, can I suggest two ways in which you can improve both your customer service and your internal efficiencies. It cost me the best part of 45mins in additional and wasted travel time. It's just the kind of thing which may also cost Toyota my custom long term.

1. Confirm your appointments in writing - either by post, email or (my preference) text. Offering this service would also build you a database of mobile numbers and email addresses.

You send me letters to ask what I think of your customer service. Is it much of a stretch to make the same effort to actually OFFER that customer service in the first place?

2. If you are faced with a 'no show', call the person in question. In my case you must have ordered an expensive part to be fitted, and scheduled in several hours of labour time. Is it really more efficient not to make that call and to have that part sitting there for who-knows-how-long? I can't believe you have the number of no-shows this approach appears to indicate.

UPDATED JUNE 5, 2007: Still no response from the dealership!!

Reminds me of a recent delay I had with British Airways on my way to New York. The flight got delayed four hours because their new - and no doubt meant-to-be-engaging (in some vague and skewed notion of the concept) - entertainment system had failed.

When - after considerable digging via mobile internet and calls to locations far removed from Heathrow - I discovered the cause for the delay, I pointed out that I'd rather get my entertainment by arriving on time to take in Times Square, Broadway, etc etc. It sure beats watching re-runs of Little Britain - even if it is on cod IPTV.

I suggested if they asked all the other people now faced with a four hour delay what they'd prefer they might get a similar response. The bonus might be that by listening to their customers they'd save the cost of a considerable delay (which necessitated the prep of another 747!).

I found it very difficult for anyone to even take note of my suggestion.

As we all know, information in airports appears to be jealously guarded when it comes to reasons for delays. Perhaps they just couldn't cope with the idea of someone giving them some for free?

The rate of change is so rapid it's difficult for one person to keep up to speed. Let's pool our thoughts, share our reactions and, who knows, even reach some shared conclusions worth arriving at?