‘The Best Service Is No Service’ — Mobile Industry, Take Note

Today’s FT has a review of a new book about customer service, called The Best Service is No Service: How to Liberate Your Customers from Customer Service, Keep Them Happy, and Control Costs. Whoo, a book about customer service — I know what you’re thinking. But this one actually sounds pretty worthwhile, especially for the mobile industry.

As the review says, the overall premise is really straightforward: customers generally seek service from a company only when something’s wrong. Get those things right the first time, and people won’t want, or need customer service. Then, once things are going along well, resources you might have had to devote to extensive customer service and support — to fix things that are broken — you can devote to other areas where they’ll improve your products and make you more money.

One of the authors used to be a VP of global customer services at Amazon. I order a lot of stuff from Amazon, and I’m hard pressed to think if I’ve ever had to contact them directly about an order. Either I’ve had no problems, or all my questions have been handled by their web site. In any case, they use a metric called CPO — contacts per customer order. They’ve managed to slice this by 90 percent by figuring out why people need to contact them, what’s not working, and fixing it.

Think about this in terms of the mobile industry, in particular operators. I’m going to go out on a limb and posit that nearly all the service calls they receive are a result of something breaking or an error (whether it’s a technical problem or billing issue, and so on), or because customers can’t find adequate information about something on their own. From the review:

According to the authors’ research, customer contacts have four broad causes. About one in seven is triggered by basic quality defects (“It doesn’t work”). These must be addressed by underlying quality improvements. About a quarter take the form of “How do I?” questions. Here, the company has failed to communicate properly or its processes are confusing to customers, so it must identify and deal with these defects.

About 40 per cent of customer contacts are “Where can I get?” queries. Customers should be able to answer most such questions for themselves via a website or other self-service option that is easy to use.

The final 20 per cent of contacts are from customers wanting to buy stuff.

Think about the amount of resources that go to dealing with the non-sales contacts; then think about how many of those contacts have a positive financial result for the operator. Not very many of them. By employing some pre-service — that is, making sure things work as they should, and by providing customers with the information they need in an effective manner — operators could redirect their resources towards those cases where service contacts do require some human intervention, and on things like improved sales process that really benefit the business.

This sounds fairly obvious, but it bears repeating in this age of confusing tariffs, poor web sites and undertrained sales staff. And of course, solving these issues is much more difficult than it sounds. In any case, this book sounds like it’s worth picking up, especially if you’re in a customer care role at a mobile operator 🙂

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