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Customer service often takes a back seat to the need to innovate and capture market share. But if tech companies don't build loyalty and deliver a positive customer experience, they may fall short.
Developing innovative products, getting products to market first, and capturing market share are the driving forces for technology companies are d. In this context, there is so much pressure on tech companies to innovate that sales follow-up functions like customer service get lost in the process.
The result is that many tech companies have lackluster and even poor reputations for customer service. Instead of answering customer phone calls with real and knowledgeable humans, they doom their customers to painful, multi-layered automated call attendants and generalized online FAQs and website materials that fail to address the specifics of customer questions.
Because customer service is so under-exploited as a revenue-enabler and loyalty-builder in tech, this might be the very time for CEOs and tech leaders to change their thinking about it—and start connecting with customers.
In today's tech dynamics, salespeople don't consistently understand the business pain points their customers experience. Reps spend time touting the advantages of products and discounts instead of putting themselves in their customers' shoes to see if the product can solve real issues. Once a sale is closed, the rep moves on. The customer is left with a phone number and/or an email address to contact if service is needed. The overall impression this gives the customer is that the vendor doesn't care anymore.
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As a CIO at a "customer" company, I have experienced communications with a new vendor going dark after the sale. I once signed off on a high six-figure order with a major tech vendor and then experienced problems with the new operating system that resulted in downtime. It took several days to get someone at the vendor company to look at the issue, so I had my own staff look at it. What we found was that one of the programs in the operating system hadn't even been compiled! After follow-up discussions with the vendor, we decided to leave.
But what if the vendor had adopted a Starbucks approach? It works like this:
A customer orders a tea and an oat brownie. The barista takes the order but forgets about the tea. The customer goes back to the barista and mentions that the tea was overlooked. The customer receives a personal apology and a complimentary drink—part of Starbucks' free beverage offer policy when something goes wrong with an order.
What if the tech vendor that forgot to compile one of its software modules and shipped it to us had instead provided premium service to resolve the issue and then followed up with a waiver of maintenance fees for one month—or offered a free training course on its software for one of my employees?
The outcome might have been different, because a great service follow-up can patch a rough spot with a customer and become an ongoing differentiator for a tech company.
One need look only as far as TurboTax—which commands the consumer tax prep software market with its easy-to-use interface and 24/7 support—or Apple, which provides person-to-person phone assistance and free ongoing courses and tech help at its local stores for Mac, iPad, and iPhone customers.
In both cases, the companies show ongoing loyalty and appreciation for their customers. More important, they show their customers that they do not take them for granted.
Great customer service builds revenue, along with good will. In his article on Starbucks, blogger Yaro Starak said, "The combined word of mouth of thousands of little positive anecdotes about a business circulating around society can add up to one powerful force of goodwill and positive branding. No advertising campaign can rival the impact of a good reputation and a good brand spread organically, born from a superior product delivered with superior customer service."