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March 30, 2005

Customer Service Lessons for CEOs

Yesterday I blogged about poor customer service by various Verizons and HP, great service by Carrot Ink, and Kyocera whose website and ordering process were good enough to avoid customer service opportunities altogether.

Last week I blogged about the need to improve customer support at Vonage.  Now, after all of the ranting, here are some lessons for CEOs based on the experiences I blogged.

  1. You can get away with bad support as long as you are a monopoly or otherwise have very distinguished service.  Verizon local is still a monopoly but I have reduced the amount I pay them greatly by using Vonage and will eliminate them as soon as I can.  Verizon Wireless isn’t a monopoly but really does have the best network coverage in places I go so I put up with their poor customer service. HP isn’t a monopoly and printers are a commodity so they lost my business.  It’s really dumb to stop supporting the printer when you make your money on the ink!

  1. People will be patient if the CSRs are accessible and nice.  I tried may times to get an antenna from Verizon Wireless.  But good manners, in the end, can’t make up for bad support systems.  And repeat phone calls drive the cost of customer service up without producing customer satisfaction.

  1. You will save a fortune in support costs AND get better customer satisfaction if customers really can help themselves through the website and online support.  Text chat is a good step before a voice call.  The CEO should consider it a failure any time a customer with a computer has to call for help; but the help rendered still needs to be good.

  1. If you are offering a low-priced off-brand product like Carrot Ink does, it is MORE important that customer support be good than it is for your established rivals. It is much easier to scare me off Carrot Ink than it was to scare me off HP.  This point is why it is important that Vonage and the other VoIP carries use a higher standard than Verizon to measure their customer service against.

  1. The best way to reduce customer support costs AND maximize customer satisfaction is not to create customer support opportunities at all. That is the Kyocera story.
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