The Crowdsourcing project on Customer Service that Roberto Rocha has been conducting for the Montreal Gazette on his Technocit? blog has now run its course. Crowdsourcing is finding increasing favour and you can get an idea of the range of crowdsourcing projects at the Openeur website. Crowdsourcing has been defined as the act of taking a job traditionally performed by a designated agent (usually an employee) and outsourcing it to an undefined, generally large group of people in the form of an open call.
Crowdsourcing only works if there is a crowd that wants to get involved. This project asked Canadians to help create a feature story on poor customer service. Since all of us are afflicted from time to time by that ironic putdown, Your call is important to us, the crowd on this one was guaranteed. The project mined a wealth of material. Here are some of the more important posts that came up:
- A conversation with Videotron’s Manon Brouillette
- How to reach a human being in customer service lines
- How banks can improve customer service: Celent
- What big banks can learn from little ones in terms of customer service
- Michael Sabia of Bell responds to Your Call Is Important to Us
- Why is service at banks getting worse?
- YCIItU: a reader’s apt observation
What are the important insights that come from all that material? The most important is that customer service clearly does not get the attention that customers feel it should. It’s almost as if the words customer service mean different things to suppliers of services and to customers.
It’s the old now classical distinction between being product-driven and customer-centric. In March 2000, Harvey Thompson of IBM published a book, “The Customer-centered enterprise, How IBM and other world-class companies achieve extraordinary results by putting customers first”. It would appear the message has not got through. Many banks and telecoms attempt to develop the very best products for their clients. They presumably feel that the products are so good that clients should be able to use them without needing any customer service. For that small fraction of customers who run into problems, they try to provide help in the most economic way. They do not regard the product/service package as what customers are paying for. Instead it would appear that customers pay for products and the cost of providing the customer service is assumed to reduce profits.
The Gazette Project shows that this way of thinking is not delivering what customers want. The advantage of adopting a customer-centric approach should hardly need proving now. There are many case studies to demonstrate this. Just compare the fortunes of WestJet and Air Canada if you’re not convinced. Let’s hope that the message that customers want customer service and are willing to pay for it gets through to the powers that be.