“Customer Service” – the key is in the name

I don’t know about you but in my simple existence, on average, I must interact with at least 5 different companies that provide some sort of service to me on a daily basis. When I look at all of these service providers, I rate my satisfaction with them using straightforward criteria –

  1. Customer service
  2. Price

It’s a pretty simple formula but for me it works.  Customer service/price = good value – and that is what I want.  Don’t we all?  Now if I look at the companies who provide services to me, I can use my formula to easily categorise my service providers into one of two camps – “Keepers” and “Soon to be ditched”.

Excellent customer service = customer retention = profit.  It’s not rocket science. So it’s no coincidence when you read in the press about a big company struggling and making cuts and they have a reputation for poor customer service. There’s no better example recently than Npower, who through years of consistently bad customer service are now in a situation where they are having to lay off 2,500 staff. I was (very much past tense) a customer and they not only gave me terrible customer service but just didn’t care. Bet they wish they had now…

So what makes excellent customer service?  Well, in my view, this definition has changed over the last few years thanks to technology.  It’s interesting when I look at my “Keepers”, all have embraced next generation technology to enhance their customer service.  For me, excellent customer service is underpinned by these things –

  1. Self-service – empower customers to serve themselves, after all, they know what they want (it also lowers the service providers cost and scales easier).  A good app or web portal is worth its code in gold when it comes to customer retention
  2. Educate & inform – use social media and apps to push the right information to the right customers at the right time
  3. Be accessible – when self-service and content is options can’t help, be available to speak to your customers at a time to suit them using a medium that suits them (apps, SMS, chat)
  4. Speak their language – by all means deliver services from anywhere in the world but if you choose to speak to your customers directly, don’t create a language barrier.  It just doesn’t work
  5. Pre-empt their needs – use your data to think ahead and figure out what your customers are going to need before they do
  6. Listen – there is no excuse for not getting good customer feedback in today’s environment.  Make it easy for your customers to give it to you and act on it
  7. Have a simple charging model – don’t hide costs in the small print. Yes you can point to the small print and say “we did tell you to read it” but do you really want that kind of relationship with your customers?  Or ex-customers as they will become
Customer service

So, I read an interesting article recently that 18.6% of UK co-location datacentre customers are ready to ditch their provider.  Even worse – 34.6% are unhappy with their current provider’s support.  You can read it here.  When you look at the reasons, its easy to see the link with my list above –

  • Additional and unexpected charges – point 7
  • Skilled personnel are not permanently on site as promised in their contracts – point 3
  • Poor response times – point 3 but point 1 is the solution
  • Additional services not offered – point 5

So why is it so hard for co-location datacentres to provide excellent customer service?  My theory is that many are hampered by ageing facilities and many still live in a world where the datacentre is the datacentre (run by the FM team) and IT is IT (run by the IT team) and never the twain shall meet.  I.E. the age old disjoint between the IT service and the datacentre facility.

So, if you are one of those unlucky customers, in one of these co-lo datacentres and looking to move, look beyond the sales pitch and slides to ensure you get what you want next time.  Firstly, look at the age and quality of the facility, after all, if they are fighting a losing battle from the outset then you know where it is going.  Assuming you like the facility, then look for investment in the things that enable excellent customer service, namely –

  • A self-service portal (and even an app)
  • A support service you can interact with 24×7 in a way that suits you
  • The use of next generation media to educate and inform customers
  • Evidence that they listen and innovate
  • A simple and clear charging model

I’ll leave you with one guess as to how we have built our model.  Come June this year you can find out…