In my travels across the internet I came across TeamSnap and in particular this post: Who Is Helping Whom? How Our Customers Are Using Support To Help Us
I have mentioned this post as it captures the true essence of customer centricity. As I have written before, customer centricity is fundamentally about the Being mode: reason for existence and the stand you take in life. Yet far too many people talk about customer centricity solely in terms of the Doing mode – usually in terms of capabilities, technologies, processes.
One way of thinking about this is to distinguish between character and personality. Character is who you really are, what you really care about, what you stand for in life, how you behave when your up against the ropes. Personality is the show, the mask, that you put on for others and sometimes for yourself too.
Now back to TeamSnap and their post. Here are the characteristics of TeamSnap that led me to write “Congratulations. You totally get what it means to be customer centric. I shall be using you as an example of customer centricity in my blog”:
- TeamSnap’s reason for being is to make life easier for those who organize and participate in team and group activities.
Note that the reason for existence is not to be the biggest, the best, to dominate the world, to provide a great return for shareholders, to deliver a growth rate of 20% and all that stuff.
- We do everything we can to make the application über-intuitive, so obvious that any user can pick it up and use it.
Many companies do not focus on making their products easy to use. The people who build the products often have knowledge, skills and ability that the user will not have. And they are blind to this fact: I remember listening to a famous e-commerce software company demonstrating their suite and wondering why they expected the users – marketers – to be comfortable writing if then queries!
- With that kind of product philosophy, you might expect Customer Support to be a second-class function. A place outside the “cool” functions like new feature development, or marketing. You would be wrong. Support is a cornerstone of the company.
Too many companies that claim to be customer centric (or headed in that direction) put most of their money and time into the cool functions of marketing, sales and product development. And the Customer Services (Support) function is often seen as a drain on company money and company profitability. As a result it has about the same status and welcome as someone who has Aids or in past times, someone who was a leper.
- Why? Because TeamSnap isn’t perfect. It doesn’t work the way that everyone assumes it will. It doesn’t have all the capabilities that everyone expects. It even has, horrors!, bugs.
How refreshing! My experience is that in the many companies management is convinced that the company makes perfect products and deliver perfect service. And the customers who are not happy are either trouble makers, stupid or lazy in that they have not taken the time to learn what they need to learn.
- We decided if we were going to make the investment, we were going to go whole hog. We were going to put top notch people in the support role; we were going to back them up with our best software developers; we were going to have everyone in the company, even yours truly, in the Support trenches on a regular and ongoing basis.
Now compare this with the standard situation where the Customer Services function is seen as a necessary evil – a drain on customer profitability – and the focus is on cutting costs. How many companies can claim that they put top notch people in Customer Services? And how many CEOs spend time – regularly and often – in taking calls from customers, serving customers? You are a customer, what is your experience? Do you look forward to interacting with Customer Service? No, why not?
A last word: it will be interesting how well TeamSnap fares as it grows. History suggests that as companies grow and especially when they tap the capital markets their reason for existence becomes making the quarterly figures that the analysts expect.
Please note that when I say this I am NOT making a moral judgement, I am simply stating that there is a structure to the capital markets and that structure gives rise to specific behaviour: you have to make the quarterly figures if you want to keep your job, keep your company.