Managing the risk in digital customer touch-points

Are your customers getting a helping hand or the cold shoulder?

The great thing about big American businesses is that they give us many of the stories that become the fabric of our lives. Frankly, we’d rather not endure the circumstances that result in the stories, but like train wrecks and tornados, they are entirely unforgettable and we talk about them for years. I’m talking about customer service horror stories, of course.

We all have many of them. The stories get particularly interesting when they relate to monopolies or near monopolies, otherwise known as oligopolies. Why? Because any interactions we have with such firms are biased from the get-go by the distrust we have for important players in our lives over whom we have little influence and control. We feel victimized before we even pick up the phone to attempt to do business with them. From their business perspectives, this should present them with an interesting challenge: how do we make our customers trust and love us, so that they won’t find ways to live without us? Unfortunately, such firms rarely seem to rise to the challenge.

A good example would be a very unpleasant run-in I had recently with my oligopolist ISP (Internet Service Provider). The setup for the story is that I moved about six months ago. I called my ISP during the move to have them disconnect DSL at my old address and transfer it to my new address-simple enough. Six months later, still no DSL; however, my credit card bill continues to be charged. I decided to give them a call, but having already called them three times previously in recent months, it’s fair to say I was already not in the best of moods and pessimistic about the quality of service I would receive. Suffice it to say that they lived down to my expectations. The customer service interactions went like this:

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5 insights for improving product development cycle success

In my article last month, Innovate, one step at a time, I discussed how the process of innovation easily derails during difficult economic times, such as today’s. When creating software and digital products, innovation typically spans many months, and it can become disrupted by unobservable or frequently changing business conditions that make it extremely difficult to form and evaluate viable options. When people can’t see where they’re going, they typically just stop. This is tragic with respect to innovation, since it is innovation that propels business and society forward.

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Innovate, one step at a time

I believe most things run in cycles: the economy, the stock market, fashion, moral codes, even one’s own personal status and influence (your personal "stock price," so to speak)—sometimes you’re hot, sometimes you’re not. The past couple of years have been particularly harsh in reinforcing a history lesson for us: when the pendulum swings very hard and far in one direction, it will most assuredly swing just as decisively in the other eventually.

During recessions, uncertainty prevails, and like a driver trying to weave his way along a mountain road in heavy fog, many businesspeople eventually tire and just pull their businesses over to what seems like a safe embankment, turn off their engines of innovation and progress, and wait for the fog to lift. But how long can one afford to sit on the roadside? At what point does it become riskier to do nothing than to proceed with caution? One has to wonder if there’s a better way, a way to keep moving forward in measured, confident increments, rather than eventually creating an additional element of uncertainty by deferring innovation altogether.

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