When Saving a Dollar Costs You Twenty

My book, Evergreen, was recently named by Book Authority as the #4 Best Customer Service Book of All Time. I was pretty excited when I heard the news.

As I quickly scrolled down the page looking at the other books, I completely missed something at first. Then a friend called to congratulate me on having TWO books on the list. The Customer Loyalty Loop was also on the list in the #17 spot.

He then asked why my third book, Dealing with Difficult Customers, wasn’t listed. Maybe they were still waiting for their copy! Randon: Amazon has this one on a remarkable sale right now. See here.

Regardless, one of the core philosophies of all three of my books is the power of the human touch in an increasingly automated world. We’ve become incredibly reliant on the use of technology, and some of it is downright fantastic, and some of it is done for all the wrong reasons.

Alexa, get this customer what she wants so she’ll leave me alone and I can get some real work done!!!

There’s a right away and a wrong way to embrace technology and automation in today’s modern world.

Let’s tackle the wrong way first.

In most companies I’ve worked with, when we talk about automation, the first thought is “This will let us cut staff and save money in these functions!” This is a great example of the wrong way to look at automation to better serve your customers.

Think about, for example, the replacement of a service line with an automated phone system.

At first, you were promised this new system would reduce support time freeing up the opportunity for your people to work on other tasks.

But the unforeseen drawback is the customer was forced to jump through hoops and nine levels of circles before ever reaching a live person. When they finally get a service rep on the line, they’re frustrated beyond belief.

The cost savings are easy to measure – you can look at how many call center staff you’d need to handle the call volume, how many you need with the new system in place, and the difference in costs is your savings. Much harder to measure is the cost of doing that from a customer experience point of view.

When every customer has to go through your digital labyrinth, what impact does that have on their propensity to buy?

What impact does it have on their willingness to work with your team when they have a complaint, instead of demanding remuneration (or simply leaving the call with a horrible impression of your company)?

Now think about the right way.

Like, for example, if you embraced technology or automation that freed people up to do more critical, client-centric work. The type of work that clients and customers appreciate, value, and reward you with additional spending, loyalty, and word-of-mouth.

One of the things we’ve done for numerous clients is to take the laborious of generating reports (many times completely by hand or via multiple excel files) to create compelling, results-driven exception reporting. This is the reporting that gives management insights on things they expected to get done that aren’t getting done. Or the things that lead to significant returns.

For example, consider some of my favorite questions, which you can think about in a variety of contests, regardless of business or industry type.

Questions like:

Can you tell me, unequivocally, without question, the last time each your clients were spoken to and the context of those conversations?

Or a variation…

Can you tell me, unequivocally, without question, the last time each of your customers purchased from you, and when they should have repurchased? How many of your customers are “past” their expected next purchase date?

Or…

Could you show me exactly where in the buying cycle every single prospect currently is? Are you confident that a next follow-up date and conversation has been set?

Are you confident your people are following the process?

Sure, we could use automation to trigger emails when customers have lapsed, and that’s a great nudge, but most of the companies I’ve talked to before working together are often missing the very fundamental building blocks required before adding new technology automation.

Remember a couple of weeks ago? I told you about one of Canada’s largest and most successful companies.

You know the company. We all do. This 30-year-old+ behemoth couldn’t even answer a fraction of these questions.

It probably won’t surprise you to hear this company IS a tech company.

We need to get the customer piece right first. Anything done before that is putting the cart before the horse. Even companies who’ve had 34 years to get it right have often missed this critical step.

Sometimes you need to step back.

When everyone is racing to the next shiny object like the glorified customer satisfaction tools…

Or the automation tools in your storefront or hospitality business…

Or even defaulting to the useless, annoying, “How likely are you to recommend us on a scale from 1-10?” (without ever asking why or following up)…

Step back, and first ask some different questions.

“Will the immediate cost saving from this offset the negative impact we’re passing on to our customer?”

“How will this help us create better, or more consistently great experiences for our customers?

“Will this free up time or money or resources to allow us to do work that will have a direct positive impact on our customers?”

And that’s your challenge for this week.

I’m guessing you’re all in the middle of a decision involving some of things discussed in this Tidbit.

Put that decision up to these three questions and you’ll be in a much better position to make the best decision possible.

Best,
Noah