The comparison of a service experience (common theme for me, I know…) between that received from a global telecomms company and that from a local electrician recently led me to ponder on the use of technology in business.
With the telecomms company, I rang to replace a broken handset. Eventually I got what I wanted and the company got a further 2-year protected income stream (contract) from me. I would have been happy to commit to that from the outset, however to achieve that simple win/win took an hour of stress on 2 calls engaging directly and indirectly with 5 people.
The electrician came around at a mutually convenient time, didn’t have the right kit to fix the problem, improvised a short-term solution, looked at some other bits and pieces for me, and agreed to come back as soon as I had the material required, in order to apply a permanent fix. I asked how much; he said he had been on the way home anyway; how about £10?
Technology has broken down barriers and allowed companies to massively scale their marketing footprint and distribution capability. However it has also combined with deregulation to reduce barriers to entry and many products have become commoditised (air travel is a good example of all of the above – deregulated market combined with internet distribution). This commoditisation puts massive pressure on cost. In order to effectively leverage the scale and growth benefits which have been made possible, but still protect profit, companies have had to systemise and automate their services. Bespoke solutions are expensive so you end up with ‘one size fits all’ and ‘the computer says…’. Despite his cheap fee, the electrician and his mate coming around in person is actually expensive (for him – in cost of his time); you can’t scale that model up and still make money.
The technology is actually available for bespoke solutions. You just have to look at marketing. Massive data collection and processing capability is allowing highly personalised targeting of marketing activities online. Marketing has actually already moved way beyond ‘simply’ using technology for scale and reducing cost; the automated large-scale technology is so good, it can itself ‘do bespoke’. Examples are everywhere; one I particularly liked was the MP who complained about the banner ad for ‘dating’ services used by ‘the other party’ on their website. The banner ad of course is personal to the viewer, dictated by their previous viewing… Nothing like pride before the fall…
Marketing drives revenue; service hits costs… if you have the corporate attention span and intellectual capacity of a 5-year old… A global corporation may struggle to replicate the personal service of a local tradesman, however one interaction left me tired, deflated and frustrated. And one was wholly positive (without paying any premium). I will call the electrician every time. I would happily never deal with the telecomms giant again.
When will big corporations spend as much time, effort and money serving (retaining) us as they spend targeting (acquiring) us? The cost of the former is on average far less than the latter. Good service is also good business…