Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Customer Service: Learn by living

I stopped by my usual breakfast taco joint en route to work this morning. I was distracted, peeved (some _dude_ cut me off in traffic) and lost in thought as I walked up to the sales counter. The young man behind it goes "Morning Amar, your day of to a good start?". It shook me up in a good way, I was honestly pleased that some one who knew me by name cared enough to ask me how I was doing. It was enough to change my disposition and make me smile. What was strange was that I did not know his name and I normally know the names of the sales people I interact with. It is simple basic stuff, that we all know about but that we so often forget.

(Thanks to leilei2006 for making this photo public on flickr.)

On the other hand, I have to get my car inspected from my insurance so they can give me an estimate on the hail damage done to my car. As I was setting up an appointment, the claims person says "you know there is more hail forecasted for tonight". It just occurred to me, wouldn't it be cool if you can sms all your clients this information before hand so I can find a safe spot for my car and save both of us money. The technology is there, if airlines can sms flight info. to me, my insurance company can sms weather warning to me. That would be a neat way to differentiate yourself from your competition. So why not do it?

It is because not all companies are like Toyota. It is because once a company reaches a certain size ideas are squashed under process and paper work. It is because ennui and adhering to standards replace innovation and true customer satisfaction. How is your company doing? What are you doing to change it? Oh yes process is not always bad.

p.s I recently read a post about Toyota's management style where production line workers are given lots of freedom to innovate and how it is considered an honour if an engineer can spend time on the production line. If you know what I am talking about, please consider sending me the link :)


kimmie said...

I love the idea of insurance companies doing that. Just think of how much money it would save them in the end if they could warn their customers beforehand rather than spend money on claims after the damage is done :)

Great idea!!

Noell said...

I can just imagine the shock of getting THAT message... :) It is a great idea though...unfortunately, big businesses tend to be a lot like government - and not in a good way.

Corbett J. Klempay said...

Don't look for Ford to do this anytime soon ;)

This is also complicated by the OEM / dealer / end customer relationship, however. All of the customer interaction is via the dealer; you can't really have Ford sidestepping the dealers and dealing directly with the customers -- that would hugely piss off the dealers (who believe they totally own the customer relationship, and have the state laws to back this up). In many other countries, OEMs directly run the dealerships, but that is not so here.

Individual dealers would not have the IT infrastructure to support something like this -- probably only the largest dealer groups, like AutoNation. I can't see Roger Beasley building out infrastructure for something like this.

One possibility might be to provide things like this through third party intermediaries blessed by both the OEM and dealers -- much in the way XM functions.

Anonymous said...

But you gotta be careful though. All those well intentioned sms can become.. junk sms. Imagine getting sms about upcoming hail, traffic jam, flight delay (this one is great though!), the cheapest gas station near you, and that today's the best day to fertilize your lawn. Much the same with businesses sending us e-mails about deals and products that we might want. Reminders of mother's day and what we can get for mother's day from their store. Some of them are good, some of them become junk mail. Junk mail is much more filterable than junk sms. So, in part, I am quite happy that businesses do not send sms, however well-intentioned it might be.

On a side note, Ford's motto is now 'To be the leader in innovation'. :)