Signal contributing scribe
“The problem with most accountants is that they know the cost of everything but the value of very little.”
~ Albert Einstein
My wife and I recently came across a particular online service that seemed fascinating and very inexpensive.
For a relatively small fee, we ordered a week’s worth of ready-made meals to be delivered to our doorstep. Now don’t get me wrong – we love to cook and enjoy good meals. We just thought that this “click instead of cook” option would make a refreshing change to the palette.
The box of goodies came when it was promised. The packaging did its job. The content was all presented fresh and appealing. Most of all, the taste was good. All in all, we were satisfied enough to place a second order a few weeks later.
Unfortunately the second order never arrived and that’s when the fun with the grocery company began. Your back end service was terrible. There must have been so much resources put into marketing and the product itself that the owners decided to strategically cut back on after-sales support.
My wife took the lead trying to get a replacement order, but after a lengthy and fairly stressful experience with the online chat functionality, we quickly moved on to a full refund request. With the faceless customer service representative my wife dealt with, two facts became very clear: first, the person had a very poor command of English; Second, they just copied and pasted a prepared Pat answer to every question we asked.
Bottom line: the second order was fully refunded and you lost a customer for life. Before the second-order debacle, we were on the verge of becoming enthusiastic fans. We would certainly have ordered again and most likely talked to a few friends about it and encouraged them to give it a try too. But after the incredibly poor customer service, they would no longer be making sales from or through us.
Outsourcing is becoming more and more common. Companies are returning to their core purpose – and outsourcing what’s outside of that core. In theory it makes sense and on paper the numbers usually look good. As a former hotelier, for example, we knew that our guest was mainly interested in our location. free parking; good bed; hot shower; clean bedroom and a good breakfast.
At no point did it occur to the guest which services in the value chain were provided by one of our employees or one of our salespeople. We just had to make sure that the product and service were seamless and that they met or exceeded expectations for the price.
I believe some companies get outsourcing wrong if their motivation is to save money. They don’t see that much value in after-sales support and save a few percent there. Their nearsightedness blurred the long game, so in our case they took a few dollars out of our purse with our meals, but we won’t be back to play.
From my business and customer experience, the best way to look at outsourcing is to look at the entire sales to support the cycle and wonder if the outsourced solution can provide even better service than the outsourced option. My observation was that when you offer a great product and combine it with exceptional service, sales keep going. If instead you see less value in after-sales support and in the penny pinch, you have to keep marketing to attract more customers, probably to lose some of them in the same way that you lost us.
Ideally, the outsourcing should be invisible to the customer, who cannot tell whether his agent is an employee or an employee of a contractor. When done right, everyone wins.
The last time we left the online portal and said goodbye to the customer service rep, whose job title we considered oxymoron, we were not surprised to receive another automated email asking us to rate the service we had just received . when it actually wasn’t a 10 out of 10. We looked at each other and said “yes, no” and clicked off the construction site and went into the kitchen to prepare dinner.
Paul Butler is based in Santa Clarita and is a customer partner of Newleaf Training and Development in Valencia (newleaftd.com). The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and are not necessarily those of The Signal newspaper. If you have any questions or comments, email Butler at [email protected]
The author and writer (Paul Butler) hereby offers the publisher (in this case The Signal newspaper) the first series rights to publish this article for the first time. All other rights remain with the author and author of all previous and future articles agreed in writing with The Signal owner and editor Richard Budman on April 3, 2019.