29 May 2022
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The customer will always be king, and your people will still be the best tool for keeping them happy.

The one thing tech giants do better than anyone else (and it isn't innovation)

Colin Jowell
6 August 2015

By Colin Jowell

Let’s begin with a tale of two upgrades: one is Microsoft and the other is Apple.
After much hype, Windows 10 is rolling out and through the course of the upgrade, a user found himself without basic access to Outlook and other essential programs. Never fear – within minutes he found himself connected to the help desk, and by the end of the hour, all access was restored. The user then gladly signed on for a $120 package for unlimited assistance and support for the next year!
A similar story over at Apple. A music buff had resisted an iTunes upgrade, but the purchase of a new device necessitated it. Unfortunately, it obliterated all the playlists (which if you’re a music buff is pretty devastating!). Worse still, the Time Machine feature had not been working so, even after the $40 service call to Apple had restored most of the data, seven months were still missing. Apple sent out a terabyte drive for free to the music buff, to ease the pain and insure against future mishaps.
Why am I boring you with these tails of IT woe? Well consider this - between the two companies they managed to secure $160 of additional revenue from customers to fix a problem that the company had in fact created. And both users seemed pretty chuffed about it, raving about the greatness of their chosen platforms.
Contrast this to my recent trial of supermarket home delivery where not a single provider (out of three) could manage to deliver the items ordered at the allocated time with any degree of consistency. Now technically, this is no more of a disaster than some missing playlists or a program that was a bit glitchy.  A little time and hassle, and everything was OK in the end. But the net result in the supermarket category was a customer that was an angry snarling beast, not a net promoter.
The difference? Well it actually does come down to the little things:

  1. A phone that’s answered in three rings, at any time you might need it
  2. A well-trained, genuinely empathetic sounding person on the other end who doesn’t sound like a surly teenager when they say “I understand that it must have been frustrating”
  3. A bag of tricks that go above and beyond when the customer has a genuine grievance - (a token voucher that barely covers the cost of the delivery fee is no sign of care or remorse).

The message is simple. Sure you can optimise your platform, streamline your app, and generally wow with as much tech whizz-bangery as you like. But things will always go wrong. Always.

Recent research by SDL stated that only 7% of great customer experiences were created by tech only - the remainder were either driven by people or a combination of technology and people. Which only reinforces the fact that as technology ultimately becomes more and more commoditised, future success is far less likely to be about what is delivered, and far more likely to be based on how, and most importantly, who delivers it.

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