“Jim, I want you to watch this,” he said, pointing to a webcast of the iPhone unveiling. “They put a full Web browser on that thing. The carriers aren’t letting us put a full browser on our products.”
Mr. Balsillie’s first thought was RIM was losing AT&T as a customer.
“Apple’s got a better deal,” Mr. Balsillie said. “We were never allowed that. The U.S. market is going to be tougher.”
“These guys are really, really good,” Mr. Lazaridis replied. “This is different.”
“It’s OK—we’ll be fine,” Mr. Balsillie responded.
- Blockbuster thought their competitor was Hollywood video. It was RedBox and Netflix.
- Blackberry thought their competitors were Nokia and Motorola. It was Apple.
- Kroger thought its competitors were Safeway and Publix. It’s Amazon.
- GM thinks its competitors are Ford and Chrysler. It’s Google and Uber.
Technology is advancing and converging at an incredible rate and your competitors aren’t who you think they are anymore. Those that choose to ignore this will suffer the same fate as some of the former market leaders mentioned above.
Many companies get fat and happy, content with the way they’ve always done business, thinking things will never change. That’s why 88% of the firms in the 1955 Fortune 500 are gone and today, new companies only have a 16 year estimated lifespan.
A company’s best defense against obsolescence is by making themselves obsolete…before someone else does.
Innovate or die.
Let’s face it, the purpose of 1-800 customer support lines are to do everything possible to prevent you from getting customer service. Companies have come to the conclusion (erroneously I think) that somehow talking to customers is a bad thing. They base this belief on the fact that every time they talk to you, it costs them money. That may have made some sense back in the olden days and I would argue that avoiding conversations with your customers is unwise and potentially risky. Why do you want to talk to your customers?
- Customer feedback, when aggregated, can give insight on common problems they face with your product, business, website, etc. In a sense, each conversation becomes its own focus group study. Who wouldn’t want feedback from the very people that are buying and using their products and services? At the very least, it gives the company direction on what issues are most common, what they may need to correct, and in what priority.
- Message Control: If companies won’t provide the customer an outlet to reach them, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Yelp, and the hundred other social networks most certainly will. By having a simple and convenient way for me to contact you, I might just not tell my social networks how much I hate you. And inversely…
- My boyish naiveté often gets me in trouble but I have this weird belief that your job as a company doesn’t end after the sale, it begins. Fostering a positive relationship with your customers not only increases the chance of them doing more business with you, it creates an army of advocates of your company and brand that extend across those same networks they might have vented on. And believe me advocates work cheap (note: adversaries also work cheap and often with more vigor and venom)
So in the spirit of pretending to give a crap about providing your customers with good (Note: I didn’t even say ‘great’) customer service, here are the Top 12 Pieces of Advice for Companies that use 1-800 Customer Support Lines:
- Make your phone tree a phone shrub. If it takes me more than 30 seconds to get where I want to go, you’re doing it wrong.
- Don’t tell me that my call is important & then put me on hold for 17 minutes
- If the hold time is 17 minutes, don’t have a 1-800 line. Just send a guy over to punch me in the face, its less painful for me.
- If you insist on putting me on hold, tell me how long I’ll be on hold.
- When I am on hold, DON’’T hammer me with promotions or ads for your products. And for God’s sake don’t hammer me with Musak Hammer me with some Metallica. . Hint: Make my wait as entertaining or painless as possible.
- If I ask the same question everyone else asks, fix that problem until we don’t ask the question anymore, ok Sparky? Fix the most common problems and I guaran-effing-tee that we won’t call you as much.
- If your Operators name is Maruf and works in the Bangladesh Call Center, tell him not to say his name is “Bobby”. I’m good working with Maruf and your not fooling anyone.
- If my call gets dropped for any reason, call me back. Immediately. Sooner if possible.
- I should only have to give you my information once.
- I know I can find answers to your website, but right now I wanna talk to a person though. Make that simple to do.
- If you offer “Do It Yourself” products, make sure you have phone support on weekends. I mean when do you think most “Do It Yourself” projects are done?????
- Don’t grade your operators on how quickly they can get me off the phone, Grade them on my delighted they make me. Trust me this works.
- Extend you customer support model beyond the phone. If don’t offer chat or social media support you’re behind the digital curve. Email/Support Forms? C’mon, we all know that’s the black hole of customer service Hell and if you can’t get back to me with some kind of response within an hour don’t bother with it.
It’s really that easy. We aren’t asking for much. And if you do take care of us, we’ll take care of you.
This week I attended the Internet Summit in Raleigh, a nice little event here in the Triangle that gathers together some of the brightest digital marketing folks in the area…and few stupid ones. Say what you will about New York, Silicon Valley, and Austin, but this little cow-town has some serious stuff going on and this event continues to grow every year. This year’s edition of the Summit brought the likes of Gary Vaynerchuk, Kevin Pollak, Ben Huh, and Coolio. I’m pretty confident you’ve heard of at least one of these people, but if you don’t, well, be assured that they haven’t heard of you either. The agenda was jam packed with keynotes, panel discussions, tech sessions, and rap music you haven’t heard in 20 years, and as the event was a virtual sellout, I know that many of my colleagues were unable to attend. The good news is that I have an awesome set of observations summarizing everything you need to know about this year’s conference. You’re welcome.
Here’s what you missed:
- The most important thing on the planet that digital marketers need to know is “storytelling”. You can go home now.
- Apple uses its market position to block innovation and uses “old technology” (note: a panel member who listed himself as a Blackberry consultant said this. Seriously.) RELATED: Is being a ‘Blackberry Consultant’ really something you want people to know about?
- Gary Vaynerchuk swears a lot and the over/under on when he drops his first f-bomb in a keynote is currently 30 seconds. Take the under.
- Interesting subjects can be neutered by poor speakers.
- Uninteresting subjects can be made to sound glorious by great speakers.
- “Storytelling” is THE most important thing that digital marketers need to know.
- Daft Punk + Duck Dynasty > Wearable Technology.
- You need to understand Millennials. They want meaningful work, rapid advancement, flexible hours, and frequent accolades and rewards. Oddly enough, so do I, so they can just get the fuck in line behind me.
- There is never enough coffee or power outlets at any conference. It;s the law of the Conference Gods. Get over it
- It’s either going to be too hot or too cold. Bring a blanket and a tank top to cover your bases
- Some companies still believe that tchotchkes are a business model. If the tchotchke flashes it indicates that it’s a high-tech business model.
- All innovation is great until the Marketing Department gets a hold of it. Then it’s fucked.
- Of all the things that digital marketers need to know “storytelling” is the most important of them all.
- Coolio is still alive. Double check your Death Pool picks.
- Whatever boundaries of technology Google Glass is eclipsing, the people who wear them look like attention-hungry douchebags.
- Curiously, speakers who preach about the importance of building and cultivating relationships are usually bombarded with resume-wielding job-hunters immediately upon leaving the stage.
- The preferred speaking attire these days is jeans, with an ill-fitting suit coat over a wrinkled button-down shirt that isn’t tucked in. Pros add a pair of shoes that look like they came from a hipster goodwill store.
- “Storytelling” is very important.
- The world desperately needs laws governing the use of PowerPoint slides and harsh penalties for those that offer slides that look like this:
- Social Media is huge!
- Mobile is even huger!
- Storytelling is the hugiest!
- There’s a guy with a dozen bullet points on his slide telling you that you must be more visual.
- You’re totally not going to get that booth babe’s number no matter how interested you pretend you are in the solution she knows nothing about.
- It’s still in vogue for presenters to use tired examples of bad social media execution and tell the audience “what they would have done”.
- The most popular person at the conference is the one who brought the power bar.
- Once a rare siting, the person with the laptop, iPad and iPhone working concurrently is now sadly commonplace. Because you can never really be too connected.
- Asking the audience to “Give it up” for the speaker should be illegal.
- Asking the audience to raise their hands in response to your questions should be illegal.
- Asking the audience the question, “How many of you are marketers?” followed by “Wrong! You are all marketers!” should be illegal and punishable by a swift kick in the nuts.
- Box lunches suck, particularly the “sampler” pack of macaroni salad.
- Sometimes the conversations on Twitter during a presentation are waaaaay more interesting than the presentation itself.
- Once the conference ends everyone will enthusiastically go back to doing things exactly the way the presenters told them not to do it.
- Oh. Almost forgot. Storytelling. Critical.
Well there you have it. I betcha it feels like you sitting right there with me right? I am sure one of the other attendees will claim that I missed a few things like, you know, key learnings, and new tools and techniques, and evolving digital trends, but I’m pretty damn sure I covered the most important parts. See you next year, when ‘storytelling’ will be soooo 2013 and gurus will laugh at the people who are still doing it.