Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Why are you not caring about your customer?

Last week I had to send a letter via DHL to Mozambique. I thought this was a small task and would cost me half an hour. I could not have been more wrong as it cost me actually a few days.
First I did go to a DHL Service Point, as I thought that would be the easiest way to do it. However, they told me that they only process packaged inside The netherlands and not abroad. The employee recommended me to go to the local post office. Clearly he had no confidence in his own organization.
Then I did go to the DHL website and did find a number to call. The customer service person helped me fine and recommended me to use the web instead of the phone, as that would be 20% cheaper. I had to use their application called 'Ship Now'. Midway into the application I could not proceed to the next screen as one button didn't work. So, I did try two different browsers, only to find out that they all had the same problem. So, I called again, but it was weekend and the e-commerce customer service people are not working during the weekend! Interesting. On Monday I called again and the CS person immediately understood the problem. Many customers are calling about this problem. He knew how to solve it. So, I did ask why they hadn't fix the bug on the site. His answer was that management had decided to retire that product and so they would no longer invest in it.
Also he gave me a good tip, to book the order at around 2.30pm. The reason is that you have to stay at home for the pickup between 8am and 6pm. So, if you book later in the afternoon (but before 3pm, otherwise your order will be processed the next day) you less time to wait for the pick-up.
Anyway, I proceeded with my order and at the end I had to print the labels. That didn't work either because the file that they had sent was corrupt.

With a lot of perseverance and tolerance, I managed to send the letter to Mozambique. It is clear that DHLsees the customer as nuisance. It looks like you have to be very grateful as a customer that they are willing to serve you. Product-centricity rules customer centricity, still! By the way this was also the case with FedEx. When I did call them in the weekend I only get an answering machine, as there was nobody available in the weekend.
These old mammoths will not survive the new way of doing business. I expect that a new player is already in the works who will beat them on customer service and customer-centricity!

Are you really caring about your customer?


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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Are you planning for the customer or for your self?

Last week there had to be a maintenance call for my central heating. They did send me a time and date which didn't suit me, so I called them for another date. The only choice you have is between the morning or the afternoon. They said that they could not be any more specific. This means that you have to wait from 8am to 1pm or from 1pm to 6pm. You can't even use the bathroom in that timeframe as the person might be arriving then.

This maintenance call can be timed in minutes, as every cv in our neighborhood is the same. So, they can plan every call with an accuracy of 15 minutes. This means that they can easily tell me when the maintenance guy will be visiting my address.
It is clear that they are planning for themselves only and that there is disrespect for the customers. They simply don't care that you have to be at home and be available all morning or all afternoon.
While on the other hand it is quite easy to make a planning which serves both the customer and their own processes.

Who is the target of your planning?


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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Is there still value in experience?

Yesterday I had a conversation with Hayk, my business partner. He said that my experience was more relevant than his. My experience encompasses both more life (I am 20 years older) as well as more business experience.
I did disagree with him. Why? Because in todays 'state of the world' experience of the past is no guarantee for the future. I am even inclined to say that what worked in the past, will not work tomorrow. Look at the changes in the Fortune 50 list (compared with 10 years ago) and the IPO's of new companies like Facebook, who didn't exist 10 years ago.

There is another sort of experience relevant now.
From a life perspective, how experienced am I in coping with obstacles and changes (where I live, the language, relationships, finances, health) and thus growing as a person, as a human being. If I would have stayed in my comfort zone throughout my life, I will not build up very relevant experience.
From a business perspective, relevant experience is how fast I can learn and unlearn, how quickly can I adapt, to keep up to date on the latest developments in the market. A synthesizing mind (the ability to integrate ideas from different disciplines or spheres into a coherent whole and to communicate that integration to others- Howard Gardner) is crucial and more relevant than memorizing old experiences.

Clearly it is the type of experience which counts. If you look at it from this perspective then there is not so much difference between Hayk and me (as the number of years would imply).

What is relevant is the mindset! In Fast Company's article on Generation Flux (http://bit.ly/x7MoTY) this mindset embraces instability, tolerates – and even enjoys- recalibrating careers, business models and assumptions.

So, is your experience becoming more relevant or is it becoming obsolete?


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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Room for service innovation

Last week I did fly back from India to Amsterdam. And I was surprised by the lack of leg-space. I am not very tall (compared to the youth – 1.88m) and still my knees were in back of the chair in front of me. Stretching my legs was impossible because there was a construction under the chairs preventing this. Sitting in this highly uncomfortable position for more than 8 hours is damaging for your body. That is why I have now severe back pains.

This was the case in the flight from Delta as well as the one from KLM. So, these western companies should know what the average length is of their customers. So, they are still putting their drive for profit ahead of customer delight. But they still don't understand that if I am unhappy with the service, I will not buy a flight with their airline the next time. On the short term they have made a profit, but on the long term they loose much more.
This is such a simple opportunity for service innovation, just give a few centimeters more leg-space.

Also the "hand-luggage" that people bring on board is incredible, both in size and in number. Everything is packed. When I mentioned this to a stewardess she confirmed this problem, but said that it was the responsibility of the ground-crew. This silo-approach kills business and customer delight. This tendency to bring too much luggage on board will stop if you stop people at the door and send them back.
It is the service which counts and not the department who is supposed to provide it!

There is so much opportunity for innovation if you put your customer at the heart of all your activities and experiences! In the long term you will earn more money with this approach.

Is the customer your starting point?


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