Friday, July 11, 2008

Best service

There’s a thought out there that the best service is no service at all. I guess it’s gaining currency from the book of the same name by the ex-Amazon customer service guy Bill Price and David Jaffe. I get the idea. If you eliminate all the problems around customer service, your customers won’t have to contact you and that will be a good thing. You transform any customer relationship you’ve created back into transactions and save costs.

I’m not buying it. Errors and dumb contacts have nothing to do with service, so eliminating them doesn’t get you any closer to best service. I think Price and Jaffe have set up a straw man suggesting that service levels are judged by the number of customer calls and contacts made. Seriously, if there are still companies out there counting contacts and complaints as their key service metric, they’re dinosaurs. The Lovemarks position on service is clear. Sure you have to get rid of the dumb stuff, but to eliminate only gets you to tablestakes. If it were that easy everyone would get it right.

Blue Ocean thinking tells us that the value lies in the ability to create. To create opportunities to interact with people and serve them in ways they have never experienced before. The more you know about your customers and how they feel and what they find important, the better service you will give them. To me, Amazon’s service only starts with the trouble-free delivery of the books I want. Tablestakes. Amazon creates value for me through the connections I can make: with the world of ideas, with entertainment and then with other people’s tastes and opinions to guide and inspire me. That’s the heart of service.