The more time I spend thinking about how we can get and keep more customers, one thing becomes crystal clear to me:
We prefer to do business with other people rather than with machines.
I talked about this in my last article about Bill Ford being the new face of Ford but it bears another mention because I see signs that this is a big deal.
Witness the new website I found today: www.GetHuman.com
From their home page:
Welcome to gethuman.com; a consumer movement created to change the face of customer service. This free website is powered by over one million consumers, and the site is run by volunteers who demand high quality customer service.
I admit I was somewhat foggy on how they plan to get big companies to be more human in their customer service. But, the people running GetHuman.com have found something that just might work.
The central focus is their database of "cheats" or secrets of how how you can bypass the machines most companies force you to deal with when you contact them for service. This database is compiled by volunteer editors who sort and sift through tips offered by millions of consumers. So, the information is from the "streets" where customer service battles are being waged daily.
Here’s how it works:
1. You call a company and get their automated customer service.
2. You get mad or impatient or frustrated.
3. So, you try some different things and "voila!", you find yourself connected to a real person.
4. Then, since you’re a generous person, you go to GetHuman.com and enter this new tip into their database.
5. One of their volunteer editors then verifies the information and makes your tip available to everyone.
6. The next time someone needs to get human-based service from that company, they can cut through the automated red tape and get to a real person faster, thanks to your information.
I like this because it’s a grass roots effort using the power of open and collaborative technology to help people get things done. I also like it because it levels the playing field and it sends a message to the big companies:
Stop abusing your customers in the name of service.
Big companies (and small ones too, sometimes) have gotten very good at abusing their customers to cut their expenses. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to criticize anyone for managing their costs. But, what irks me is how out of balance sales and service are for many companies.
They’ll spend money like crazy to get us to want to do business with them.
Once we commit though, the honeymoon ends real fast. Then we discover that the sales pitch is much better than the service. Or as my friends in Texas like to say, the company is "all hat and no cattle."
Maybe my biggest complaint is that too many decisions get made by people who (apparently) have little exposure to, or appreciation of, the front line. The executives don’t seem to understand what happens at the point of customer contact when they implement customer-unfriendly policies.
I understand that many policies that result in better service will cost more money.
But I also understand that if you treat your customers well, they’ll come back more often and they’ll tell others about you. They’ll do much of your marketing for you.
THEN…the bean counters can start looking at cutting new customer acquisition costs. They should be able to save plenty of money there to more than compensate for the increased service costs.
In other words, dial down the sales pitch and dial up the service. Do this well and you’ll find you have more customers, happier employees and a healthier bottom line.