What About Customer Service?

I was online the other day doing some research about excellence in customer service when I ran across one of Seth Godin’s recent blogs about his disappointing experience at a car dealership. It caught my attention, as I had just had a very similar and equally disappointing experience at a car dealership myself.

What first struck me was the commonality of our experiences, and how, despite American’s heightened awareness about good customer service, entire industries may be lagging behind. Then I began to think about all of us in one “technology industry” or another and it dawned on me that some of us may be lagging behind, too.

This experience was made all that more clear when I recently talked to a couple of our clients who were returning to us after being with another vendor for a year. One of the major reasons they returned was that with MSI they got to actually talk to engineers, support folks and their account executive. If they have a billing problem, they can call me, the CFO, directly and actually TALK to a human being. One of their largest complaints and their biggest reasons for returning to our services over our competitor was that they were not forced to use some arcane, and in many cases, barely functional web-application, email interface or other non-personal communication. With MSI they talk to engineers, their reports come to them in email and if they have a problem – they get to interact directly with the people who can make the problem better. Kind of a novel concept, huh?

Who would have thought that in a business as driven by technology as information security is, that human contact would be such a differentiator? The simple act of talking on the phone, getting to know your clients and making sure that they never get relegated to some automated purgatory seems to have become a very powerful difference indeed.

After all, the kid at the drive thru at McDonalds must learn about customer service before he fills his first order, but do we teach our engineers, our technical support staff and our project managers the same, simple messages? Excellent customer service isn’t just for fast food and superstores, we need to embrace these concepts in whatever industry we work. Although technology is an exciting, ever changing industry, it looks to me as though many of us should be sitting in “Customer Service 101” right next to the car salesperson….

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