We've all been on the phone frustrated with the customer service rep who we need to dictate all of our information to even though we just typed it in via our telephone key pad. We've all had problems with internet service providers or cable operators who can't seem to fix our problems.
The usual conclusion from the customer perspective is that the brand/company doesn't care about their customers. This doesn't really make sense though since the brand/company isn't really a person and thus has no feelings. Surely there must be someone in some role that is in charge of a particular department that is saying, “screw my customers,” right? So, just who is it that doesn't care about customers and why is it that they don't care about them?
I've been on the phone with my internet provider many many times where I wait on hold, get passed around from rep to rep, and repeat the same information to each of them. However, most of the time the reps are empathetic to my problem and they actually sound like they care. I've also spoken to managers employed by my internet provider and they seem to care as well. Could it be the managers' boss who doesn't care? Maybe. Maybe not.
Are there companies out there or executives at these companies that genuinely don't care about their customers? Again, perhaps, but I haven't heard of or met any of them. It's actually a bit silly to think that there are people running companies out there who say “eff my customers, let them suffer, muhahahahaha!” In fact, I'd argue that most employees and executives do care about their customers. Well then what's the problem? If you care about your customers, then everything should be fine right? No. I don't think caring about your customers is enough. I believe it can be broken down in a few areas:
Employees may care about their customers but just don't have the ability to show them that they care. Not every company has an open culture like Zappos, which encourages employees to build relationships with their customers. Not all employees are given the ability to even speak to or engage with their customers. If a wounded patient comes to a doctor but the doctor doesn't have the equipment to treat the patient, then there really isn't much the doctor can do, regardless of how much he cares about the patient. Employees need to be empowered to engage with and interact with their customers. They need to be trusted that they will make good decisions and practice good judgment in the absence of such equipment.
When you give an organization data, that data is oftentimes living in its own little silo where not every can access to it. It's not the employee's fault that they don't have your information; they just don't have access to it. The data and back-end technology at many organizations don't support a “single truth around the customer” functionality.
I'm often shocked that organizations don't have processes for dealing with or handling certain issues. If there is no process for how to resolve or escalate an issue, then the problem never gets resolved. Poor processes lead to confusion and lack of problem solving. Again, this has nothing to do with not caring — it's just a lack of processes.
Now I know what you're thinking. If a company really cares about its customers, then it should be able to make all three of things happen right? Sure, but to play devil's advocate, how exactly does a large company do that? Every customer has a different perspective and idea about how they want a brand or company to interact with them. Things are always changing and evolving and no matter how hard you try, you will never make 100% of your customers happy. So how do you empower thousands of employees, integrate all of your data/technology, and set up solid processes on a global scale?
Herein lies the catch-22. Customers can't help organizations that much because they don't really understand the inner workings of how organizations function. Organizations can't release too much information publicly because of security, trust, and control issues (among other things). So, are we at a stale mate? How can customers work with companies to solve business problems and how can executives empower themselves and their employees to build customer relationships and help solve business problems?
Do you think it's possible that we will see an agile and dynamic enterprise that can shift how it works to accommodate customers and situations at a rapid pace? In essence, will every customer one day be able to personalize their own experience with a brand/company?