Archives for September 2009

Technology from customer view: A lesson from AT&T

An experience over the past weekend got me thinking about how contact center technology is deployed, and who likely within the organization is driving these decisions.

Last Sunday, I got a text on my iPhone that my AT&T; bill was now available.  “to pay, call *PAY from your mobile phone” was part of the message.  So, I did that immediately.  What I was connected to was a recording that told me the ‘customer service center was now closed. Please call back during regular business hours…”  While I tried to get my head around who at AT&T; decided that this text message provided me any value, it also occurred to me that AT&T; is missing an opportunity to improve customer service while driving down service and receivables costs.  Was this text the creation of a marketer that had access to an SMS campaign application?  Perhaps it was someone in Finance that saw an opportunity to reduce DSO.  Whomever, the campaign clearly wasn’t approached from the customer’s, or even the holistic enterprise point of view.  There are simple, common contact center technologies that could have made this a much more positive experience. 

A better solution: 

  • Send me the txt (AT&T; got that part right)
  • Offer me to either return text *PAY or call *PAY from my mobile
  • If I text, AT&T; knows who I am, just go ahead and charge the credit card they have on file and be done with it
  • If I call, AT&T; knows its me calling, offer me an IVR to review my balance and pay through the keypad

How would this have been better?

  • DSO?  AT&T; would have collected payment right there instead of me forgetting about it for another three days when I finally went on line and paid the bill
  • Cost to serve/collect?  Opportunity to reduce that by at least 80% via return text or IVR, which ever channel I chose. 
  • Customer sat?  Well, this post would have had a completely different twist I assume

I can’t imagine AT&T; doesn’t have these capabilities currently within their contact center architecture.  So, then I’m left to conclude again that this was a break down in process, with a lack of solution planning and design from the customer and enterprise perspective.  The broader lesson here is important to note.  As technologies become more distributed across the enterprise and into the cloud, requiring less and less IT heavy lifting, it’s becoming even more critical that business stakeholders engage IT for strategic technology planning and design.  While business stakeholders may not readily see the need, I think this example shows that its needed now more than ever.

Toys ‘R’ Us strolling ahead

Under the heading of “the channel gets the customer better than the brand”, a story was relayed to me about what seems to be a design issue with a model of Maclaren stroller.  For those of you sans kids (and I didn’t know this before I made the plunge) apparently Maclaren, a British company, lept into the area of chic baby products several years back via, like most other baby products, some celebs’ unofficial endorsement.  And from what I can gather, they do have a pretty cool design approach to these narly baby buggies.  For me, its the fact that they can  be folded and unfolded with one hand.

And thats the basis for this story.  My friend bought a Maclaren and, within a short time, noticed that, when folded, the stroller wheels rubbed against much of the fabric and was making the stroller dirty…and you cant have a trendy stroller thats all crapped up you know.  People might think you bought it second hand [gasp!]

Anyway, my friend contacted Maclaren to report the issue and ask for a potential solution [I told her she needs to Tweet about it to really get attention].  But, the company’s response was that there wasn’t anything they could do about it.  Ooops!  wonder if product development is aware of what their customer service reps are telling consumers.  After pressing the issue, the best my friend got back was “why dont you clean the wheels every time you fold it up”  Ooops! again

So, frustrated, she called Toys R’ Us where she bought it.  The manager of that store listened to her plight.  And, showing great empathy for a new mother, said that if the product wasn’t right to bring it back and he would give her a full refund or offer to exchange for another stroller, Maclaren or other brand.  No questions.

Now come on Mclaren! Your retail channel is taking you to task.  So, who’s building brand equity and loyalty?  The manufacturer with the celebrity following or the ‘lowly’ retailer?  No brainer.  Nicely done TRU! 

This is the Rite Aid for what ails you!

First, thanks to the friends that recently stepped up to the plate and offered up some pretty cool stories about their customer experiences.  That’s what this blog is all about: folks sharing stories, and hopefully helping to steer the rest of us through our personal consumer jungle.  I’ll get one of you to guest blog one of these days.  but in the mean time, keep the stories coming via email, comments here, where ever.  Thanks again.

So, when was the last time your pharmacy called to see how you were feeling?  I’m guessing you’d probably have to go back to Grandma and Grandpa and ask them.  I suspect this practice fell off the radar long before the national drug store chains (much less Walmart and other giants) took over the function of filling prescriptions.  Well, apparently the practice is still alive at Rite Aid .

A friend of mine recently took her prescription from her doctor to her local Rite Aid; had it filled as she normally would do.  And, three days later, got a call from the pharmacist asking her “So, how are you feeling?  Better?”  What else can I say?


A strange realization…

Ok, so I knew this date was coming up on the calendar. It does every year. I was o.k. I woke up this morning and knew what day it was. I was o.k. I went through my normal morning routine – as normal as it could be fighting a bad cold on a rain drenched day with dogs needing to be walked. I was o.k.

But then something strange happened as I started my commute. Perhaps its because in the car, on my way to and from the office, is where I usually engage in reflective thinking about myriad topics each day. After a few miles, I was overwhelmed. I guess I haven’t realized that something is still there, just below the surface. I’m actually glad its still there.

It’s now 8:46am and I’m ok. Hope you all are too. Never forget.