First, when the customer calls on the phone, start the automated message by telling me I can also get support over the Web. Translation: You’re not worth wasting a service rep on. Go to our Web site so we can save money by having you figure out your problem yourself.”

Second, don’t offer an option to connect to a human being. Translation: Not only are you not worth the cost of a live service rep, you’re so stupid you won’t think of pressing “zero” to reach one.

Next, have the phone robot force the customer to enter their user ID and date of birth (What, no caller ID?) and then mispronounce their name. Translation: We don’t know you from Adam and aren’t ashamed to show it.”Finally, when the customer gets a service rep on the phone, question why the customer wants to do what they’re trying to do — in this case, change from automatic withdrawal to manual payment. Translation: We don’t care what you want. You should use the payment method that’s cheapest for us to process.”

What an accomplishment: I’ve gone from reasonably satisfied to suspicious and grouchy customer, all in 30 seconds. The end result was the same: I got a live rep on the phone and changed by payment method. But in the process my insurer has just made me more likely to delete their emails, balk at their rate increases and consider a competitor if one presents themselves.

This is what happens when you think more about (to paraphrase John F. Kennedy) what the customer can do for you than what you can do for the customer. This is also what happens when nobody in the organization steps back and wonders, “What will this sound like to the customer?”

That’s an exercise you should go through whether you’re recording voice prompts for a customer service line, writing a white paper or creating a Web video. Take yourself out of your “maximizing revenue/cutting costs/boosting profit” shoes and put yourself in the customer’s shoes. Think about how your voice-response prompts, the jargon on your home page, the quotes in your case studies or the intro to your white paper will strike the folks who pay the bills by buying your products and services.

As Apple has shown with the iPad and Nordstrom’s with retailing, people will pay more for a superior experience. But you can’t provide that superior experience if you’re just looking out for yourself.

Author: Bob Scheier
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I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email bob@scheierassociates.com or call me at 508 725-7258.

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