October 6 , 2006
- by Robert E. Stevens, GENESIS II (The Second Beginning) E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
I just do not understand the change in businesses. There was a time when we considered our customers to be our most important asset. In the current environment of speed and cost savings, we seem to have lost the perspective of the consumer. If you watch any television today, you are sure to encounter one or more commericals depicting the frustrations of a customer trying to call the company where they do business, only to get a series of instructions to push numbers, depending on your objective of the call.
In the first place, the company assumes that they know why the caller is taking the time to place the call. Secondly, it is never one number but a series of numbers you have to key in. It is obvious that they are trying to save the company time and money; and it is more obvious that they don't care about how much time their customer is spending. Nor are they concerned about the frustration the customer is going through. I wonder how many corporate executives laugh at the commericals concerning call-in problems while their own companies have similar problems?
When I encounter one of these aggravating moments, I often wonder if the person responsible for the system has ever called in and attempted to ask a question, other than a typical one, such as, "I want to congratulate the company on the conduct of an employee." Or, "I have a question about one of your promotions where I am having trouble with the instructions." Or, has the responsible person ever called a customer that had called in and asked about their experiences with the call-in procedures?
I had a very recent experience with a customer promotion that involved a "Live Olympic" promotion where, when you purchased the company's product you could enter a contest that involved the Olympic Games. I tried, and was it a trying experience! First, you were told to look inside the carton for your "game code." Did they identify the code inside the carton, no? Did they consider how many different numbers can be found printed inside a carton that may be a game code? I doubt it or they would have identified the printed code. In my case, I narrowed it down to three.
Now, I was instructed to log on to the game's web site. I did. Now I must give my email
address and select a password (I have a password that I always use in these types of programs.) I was to enter
the password twice, which I did. Now I was given a special "Security Number." Next I was asked for my personal history. No problem. Finally I was to enter the fifteen digit "Game Code." Thank goodness, of the three possible codes, only one was fifteen digits (I wish they had told me in the beginning it was a fifteen digit code, it would have saved me some time.) I entered the "game code" and got the response "invalid code." I tried again with the same result. I tried the other two possible codes again the same respose. I logged off with a severe case of frustration.
Then I remembered that I had another carton of product which should have another "game code." I got it and logged on to the contest web site and was instructed to enter my password. I did and got the response "invalid password." Enough of this, the prizes if even won, are not worth the aggravation.
I came away from this experience with a few thoughts. If it is ten times more expensive and time consuming to get a new customer as it is to retain a current one, why do we not pay more attention to our communications? I have often said that the most important person in a company is the one who answers the phone. Unfortunately, that person has been downsized/eliminated and replaced with a machine and a dumb one at that. What ever happened with the tool of "Beta Testing?" Was it lost, downsized, eliminated, out sourced or just plainly ignored. I remember when even Market Research Projects were Beta Tested.