In 1901 a Swedish immigrant to America called Johan Nordstrom, founded the Nordstrom department store. In 1975, by now a national chain, a Nordstrom customer walked into one of their stores to return a set of tyres he’d bought. The salesperson gladly took back the set of car tyres and gave the customer a refund. Nothing weird about that, right? Except Nordstrom has never sold tyres.
Many of you may have heard this story before; its one of many legendary tales of great customer service from Nordstrom and best of all it’s true.
According to a chap called Efraim Turban, “Customer service is a series of activities designed to enhance the level of customer satisfaction – that is, the feeling that a product or service has met the customer expectation.”
Like us all I have copious tales of woe and despair dealing with the corporate giants of today. I’d say the worst offenders used to be the banks, but in today’s world of mobile everything, the network operators have definitely taken that crown. While complaining about OFCOM and whining about infrastructure costs, mobile operators continue to fleece consumers while delivering a deeply inconsistent customer service experience which can drive grown men of good demeanour to the edge of sanity. I’m a grown man.
I’ve had a mobile phone for over 15 years. I’ve been with o2 for a decade. In November 2008 I upgraded my Blackberry. As part of that deal I haggled a free USB Broadband Modem for my laptop, with the usual £15 monthly cost INCLUDED as part of my £45 tariff.
Now, I have enough material to write 20,000 words on the events of the past 9 months; but suffice to say 20+ calls, 10hrs+ on the phone, copious emails and tweets later, I’m still left without a USB Modem and o2 refusing to honour the agreed deal. An o2 Manager – having listened to the recorded call from November-has even confirmed the deal was agreed; but still nothing happened and I went around in circles again. In short, it leaves loyal customers like myself feeling that O2 don’t give a f***.
I cannot find the words to describe how fundamentally angry I am with o2. I have wasted an extraordinary amount of time. I spend £5,000 a year on my personal Blackberry and that’s before counting the 6 contracts of my staff.
In fact I was so angry I found myself typing “I hate o2” into Google. As a general search it gave 56,000,000 results; being a nice chap I thought I’d do an explicit search instead. Sadly Orange and 3 escape this test, for obvious reasons. Lucky them.
|I hate.||I love.||For every hater, X love you|
It’s all rather haphazard of course; for starters, 9 out of 10 of the 767 people saying “I love o2” were not talking about o2 the operator, but o2 Yoga, o2 Fitness and a plethora of other things which were definitely not telco.
I know many people who only use o2 because they wanted an iPhone; but they despise o2. That’s so wrong! How can a brand get it SO badly wrong?
o2 have done a great job of turning around their initial brand perception, using music venues & spending millions on “being cool”. This is all then wasted when the service doesn’t deliver straightforward satisfaction to a customer.
Brands must learn I simply want a most basic level of respect and politeness. Calls returned when promised, honour the deal you agreed to, a little bit of trust might even be nice. I don’t care whether I’m a “VIP UK Select Gold” customer (as the nauseatingly precious voice tells me every time I call). It’s all smoke and mirrors.
If o2 focused back on delivering a basic level of good service to all customers, churn would lower, brand value would rise and shareholder coffers would fill.
As anyone in business knows, there are many tombs written on the subject of customer service; blogs, podcasts, qualifications, training camps, methodologies and of course the inevitable slew of government supported “standards” with customer friendly titles such as “TICSS” and “ISO 10002:2004” Did you know, that last one addresses “the quality management on handling of customer complaints”?
Actually, IMHO (lets keep the acronym theme going) this is all a load of crap. I’m with Johan. Good customer service is really rather simple. Until very recently Nordstrom staff when joining were given only one thing: a card with just 75 words written on it, the core of which said “Our number one goal is to provide outstanding customer service.
Rule #1: Use good judgment in all situations. There will be no additional rules.”
As modern health & safety madness and litigation has got worse, that same card is now accompanied with an employee handbook, but this simple guidance and wise employee empowerment remains.
Frustratingly, many of the people I work with in the industry are from o2; and they are good people doing good things; but they’re not dealing with the day to day service. I only have a modest 1,000+ twitter followers and I probably meet 1000 mobile industry people a year; I’m no head of a Global FTSE 100 bluechip, but if they won’t listen to an angry mobile entrepreneur what hope does John Doe have?
It is truly incomprehensible how mobile operators can deliver such a widespread poor level of customer service. Corporate culture and brand values start at the top, and if any o2 shareholder is reading this, that is where you should look to solve this endemic problem.
I wonder if o2 is ISO 10002:2004 approved..? Actually I don’t care. I’m a customer. I don’t care. It makes no difference to me. Just serve me well. I’m your customer and I’m the reason company exists! Johan NordstrÃƒÂ¶m knew that.
At the end of my last post I said I’d write next time on the subject “It’s about the data, stupid.” Well, in terms of delivering valuable functionality to users that remains true, but in terms of your brand and business it’s all about the customer, always.
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Follow Andrew on Twitter: andrewjscott.