Recently, I’ve met a few founders who are rushing to participate in the latest tech gold rush. All they care about is build a product prototype and find an investor or two, or perhaps receive an offer from Yahoo or the likes. As they plan to provide an online and a mobile service, I asked if they’ve established a process for rolling out their service and how they will provide troubleshooting and customer service support. They looked at me and went blank.
If you’re an aspiring founder, you need to spend some time thinking about what service means to you and incorporating that into your venture.
We live in a service-oriented economy where every we go, businesses bombard us for input so they can improve their ‘customer’ service. More than two decades ago, this was not so. At the start of the 1990, the business world was still enmeshed in the goods-producing sector. But from 1990 to 2002, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 97 per cent jobs added to U.S. payrolls were provided by the service-producing sector. The service industry has grown exponentially since then, to include various groups such as: hospitality (travel and lodging), personal services (hair salons, spas, dry cleaning, etc.), business services (advertising, marketing, employment agencies, etc.), healthcare, private education, legal services, social services, onsumer goods and services (retail, online, mobile), etc.
Today, embedded in both goods-producing and service-producing sectors is the customer service component. Companies—from Fortune 500 to startups—are all interested in collecting and mining customer data so they can beat the competition, increase their margins and shareholder value.
Businesses have gone from not devoting any research on customers to bombarding customers at every opportunity they get to collect research info. Of late, if you’re like me, you probably find yourself being asked for customer feedback wherever you go. I get asked for my email, my zip code, if I have a store reward card. At the end of the transaction, I also get asked by the sales consultant or customer service rep, “Before you go, Ms. Vo, would you let me know if I have provided you with extraordinary service today? And would you mind answering a survey that I’ll be emailing / texting you shortly?”
What’s remarkable to me is that businesses spend huge efforts on training their employees to be more ‘customer-focused, and to extract a confirmation of ‘extraordinary service,’ but they don’t monitor their employees’ job satisfaction, which influences how the employees act and present themselves to the customers.
It’s kind of comedic when (as a customer) one is faced with a disenchanted or a bored salesperson who has to deliver the, “extraordinary service’ speech. This has happened to me more than a few times recently, and at different stores: large and small retailers, restaurants, and wireless service providers.
It appears that as some businesses get more fixated with customer data and more embedded in their customer-centric strategy, their management teams forget the individual (employees, suppliers, etc.) contributions that create a satisfied customer. And while the customer might be satisfied with the service, the customer also took note of how poorly the companies treated their people.
As someone who’s about to start a new venture, you have an opportunity to think hard and define what service means to you, to your team, to your company, to your vendors and suppliers, and to your future customers.
As you expect your employees, partners and vendors to serve your new venture well, your company should also serve them well. If you focus solely on serving your customers at the expense of your team members’ wellbeing or your suppliers’ bottom line, you may achieve short-term rewards. Your action may also affect the company’s health (there’s nothing as toxic as employee dissatisfaction), relations with your partners and vendors, not to mention damage to your company’s brand. And you may also end up compromising your company’s operation if you lose disenchanted employees who hold strategic positions.
Research, assess, and articulate what service means to all who will be involved in your venture.
© 2013-2015 My-Tien Vo