Category Archives: Customer Service

The lure of mobile apps

The internet is dead. Or rather, it has evolved and moved into the mobile world.

There was once a time when the idea of viewing a website or any online content on your mobile phone was an uncomfortable and unproductive experience. Not anymore. Today, if you website is not mobile friendly, you are in trouble.

Even if your site does not “look good”, if it is easily viewable on a mobile device, all is good.

But more and more businesses today are discovering the power of mobile apps. It does not take too much to get a simple app created. It can be for iOS (Apple’s iPhone range of products) or for Android. But the important thing is, if you have a simple app that your customers or even business partners can download, it can make doing business with you that much more attractive. After all, who would mind downloading a new app for their latest iPhone or their cool Samsung Note 3 or 4 or 5 for that matter!

But what should you put on the mobile app?

I have some ideas and you can add to them if you have more:

  • Interactive catalogue
  • Product update
  • Technology news specific to your industry
  • Ordering product
  • Shipment tracking
  • Help (product, service or even people directory)

Surely, there must be more!

Do you know what your Product Experience is?

I read a really excellent article over at Marketingprofs.com and it really struck a chord with me. I have always like the idea of a Product Experience, or a user experience tied to the use of a product. But many companies seem to miss the point.

They focus on “userability studies” and have a slew of technical tests. But these are simply technical measurements that does nothing for the user unless there is an overall experience tied to it.

The article was about “How Packaging Your Offering Enhances Your Brand” by Anthony Cirillo and it really is about why some companies are able to sell their products/services at a “higher price”.

Those who understand the concept of “selling the experience”, understands that when you purchase a product or service, it is not just the here and now or the physical product that you hold in your hands. You see, when you buy an ice cream, it is not just the brand you are buying – Is it the flavor? How about because you liked the kid behind the counter?

As you walk down the street, which ice cream stall would you stop at on a hot summer’s day? Heck, which one will you stop at in winter?

As Anthony mentioned in his short article, the overall experience that a user has with your product will determine his overall satisfaction. You may have the best brand, the best flavors, the most attractive booth and the lowest price; but if your staff give service with a snarl, how long do you think your ice cream stall will be there?

It is no longer enough to talk about Product Marketing, but we need to be aware of Experience Marketing and how the overall user experience factor into your product. I know of companies who rest on their “product excellence” laurels and fail to understand this. Don’t be one of them.

Customer Service – Customer or Process Driven?

Here is a very interesting thought for all of us. If you ask anyone if they thought “customer service” is important, the answer would be an emphatic “yes”. After all, you don’t want to lose your job, or your customers.

Now, the interesting question is this: “How sincere are you about serving your customers?”

There are plenty of sites and blogs that talk about “lousy customer service” or “excellent customer service” and so, I will not even want to go there. But I would like to present a case study here, and you be the judge – is the company sincere about customer service.

Actually, it is not just a company. It is almost an industry practice. The example I want to bring up here pertains to the very hot, very popular online massively multiplayer games industry. Some background for those not familiar.

The MMOG (Massively Multiplayer Online Game) market is one of the few successful online revenue models (other than eBay and other strictly eCommerce stuff). But with games at this level of scale and complexity, one of the biggest headache would be bug fixes. Not only that, but improvements and tweaks are a constant.

Here is the scenario that you see repeated from the early days of Asheron’s Call, to World of Warcraft and even to the latest Warhammer Online. When the game is launched, almost daily there are what is known as “down time” where the servers are taken offline to be patched (fixed). This goes on quite intensely for a while, then slows down to a patch every week or so.

Nothing wrong with this. The problem is quite subtle. You see, what do gamers want to do most? Play the game. What do companies want to do most? Retain customers. In this case, that means keeping the gamers happy.

You keep gamers happy by making sure you fix the bugs, upgrade the gamer’s experience and constantly keeping the game content fresh. Hence, regular updates, patches and enhancements. Now, when should you do this? You see, games are created by programmers. Game companies employ an army of people who understand gamers to make sure they are happy. Community managers, game masters, and of course, customer support. But who runs the servers?

Engineers. Management.

Here’s a pop quiz: “When is the best time to bring servers down for maintenance?”

Here’s the clincher – “When no one is using the servers.”

So, this leads to: “When will there be “no one” using the servers?”

And here’s the obvious answer (to some people): “Why, after office hours, of course!”

Well, that will work with your office mail server. Your file servers. Your huge and really nifty databases. But stop to think, please. When do gamers play games? During office hours? Which office do you work in?

So, they play AFTER office hours. But you see, most MMO servers are updated in the “traditional” manner. Some companies have figured it out. So, the more enlightened companies are now shutting down their servers DURING office hours to patch. Hurrah. Problem is, such games are now international. So, morning to you is night to me and you say to-Mah-toes and I say to-Meh-toes.

The irony of it all is this, even when they split the servers into North America, Europe and Oceania, they still down all the servers at the same time. Hence, peak gaming hours in Oceania and Europe is…? You guessed it, office hours in the good ole United States.

What would you do?

Customer Served – Legally

It is not often that you read about a customer being served. Well, I mean, legally served. Actually, the customer was arrested.

Our friend Kailani had this terrible experience which she talked about in her blog: Some People Just Shouldn’t Drink on Flights.

Certainly, the customer is always right. However, once you violate the “higher laws”, you are no longer considered a customer, but a criminal. The most common of course, is the shoplifter. He is certainly not a customer, though he started as one when he first walked in. Another very interesting customer is the one who pays his bills with a bounced check.

In many countries, willfully issuing a bounced check is actually an offence. Many people are not even aware of this. To them, it is just a “clever” way to stall the payments a little while more.

In the world of sales and marketing, customers are our life blood. But as small business owners, we also have to realize that sometimes, that person might not be a customer. It would serve us better not to have anything to do with them.

Robbery is a crime, but most people don’t even blink an eye when they refuse to pay their advertising agency their fees. Think about that.

The customer is no longer king

When Vista was launched a year ago, there was a lot of talk about how it (the launch) paled in comparison to Windows XP. Well, about a year on, and Vista is still struggling. Microsoft is a technology company. But it is better known for its marketing finesse and its many litgations.

Just saw this article about how Linux was going to benefit from Vista’s struggle to gain acceptance. Frankly, I doubt it. One of the key lessons we all learn early on in our lives as marketers, is the fact that marketing cannot make up for the shortfall of a product’s core capabilities.

Sure, Vista has its challenges. It requires hardware that make it more expensive. It has a slew of options that confuse the heck out of normal, everyday users. It has numerous problems with legacy devices like cameras, digital players and so on. But most importantly, it has not demonstrated its superiority to Windows XP in any clear, convincing manner. So of course, Microsoft is going to kill XP, just so that this new kid on the block is guaranteed a “bright” future.

But Linux is not the golden brick road to computing freedom either. There are enough flavours of Linux out there to make even the most enthusiastic supporter scratch their heads in confusion. But more importantly, Linus has failed to cater to the needs of the everyday computer user at the most important level – ease of use.

So, on the one hand, we have a new operating system that places a heavy demand on hardware expenditure and on the other, we have a contender that does not seem to allow the mere mortal a chance at learning it easily. Doesn’t this make you long for the days when “the customer is king”?

[tags]microsoft, windows vista, linux[/tags]