An Alternative Approach to Customer Care

Last week, I wrote about Sprint Nextel’s decision to fire 1,000 of its customers, who were using its call centre too much. It’s certainly one approach to customer care.

I’m currently reading Allan Leighton’s book “On Leadership” and he tells a story about Dyson, the plucky little British company that took on and consistently wins against mega-corporations, with its great products and innovative design.

Someone in the Dyson call centre was worried that customers might not be able to get in touch with them. So they came up with the idea of printing the call centre number prominently on the product itself. Naturally there was some resistance within the company – after all the number was in the product manual and perhaps people would assume that it was there because the product broke down all the time.

But they decided to go ahead. Oh how their competitors snickered….before copying the idea themselves about six months later.

Interestingly, no one came up with the idea that they shouldn’t go ahead because someone might call them too much – I mean that’s what the call centre is for, right? So, if you have a great product and great service, you really don’t have to worry about customers calling you up. Could be a lesson there.

Allan also tells a great anecdote about his first day on the leadership programme at Mars, where his job was to sweep up any stray Maltesers that fell off the production line. After 3 exhausting hours chasing bouncing balls of chocolate around the factory, a colleague took pity on him and explained that it was easier to tread on them first and then sweep them up.

Could be a lesson there too. I wonder if anyone working on the front line at the Sprint call centre has any similar words of wisdom about how to improve the service and avoid all these calls in the first place?

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