Friday, December 28, 2007
For position only.
For a couple years now media and communication experts (mind you, Harry Truman defined an expert as "an asshole from out of town) have averred that the internet has altered the balance of power between the customer and corporation. That is, this is the era of the empowered customer.
Unfortunately most every company--while asserting that their communications are integrated and their website is so very 2.0, have failed to provide even the rudiments of adequate customer service. One reason for that is corporations, like the military, are always preparing for the last war. So, customer service is seen as a cost-drain. Though so many corporations have CRM programs (ha! If all you have is a program, your CRM won't work because it is seen as an adjunct, not an implicit part of your corporate gestalt) and proclaim that they think in terms of lifetime value, the fact is those portions of companies that touch the consumer are often understaffed and almost always undervalued by the companies themselves. I defy you to find a customer service phone center that isn't "currently experiencing unusually heavy call volume."
My point here is one that I've promulgated since the earliest days of Ad Aged. Customer service will have more of an impact on your brand than any ad campaign you can create. Period. End of story. United Airlines--when they were with Leo Burnett, when they were with Fallon, and now at their new agency--has always done wonderful advertising. Billions of dollars worth over decades and decades, that is all canceled out by surly ice-chipping flight-waiters, dirty planes, and lousy service overall, not to mention bait-and-switch pricing tactics and flat-out deceptive frequent liar programs. Of course you've heard me excoriate Detroit, the PC industry (including Apple), the telcos, supermarkets, movie theaters, big box retailers and our purported government of the people, by the people and for the people for the same offenses. I guess, I'll say it one more time: advertising is saying. Customer service is doing. And people believe doing more than saying. Since the first internet bubble advertising has been, as it should be, long on promise. Companies, however, have failed to live up to those promises. So millions of angry, disappointed people lay in the wake of hyperbole and falsehood.
OK. Enough moralizing. Enough. Enough. 2007 is well-nigh over. And we'll end this year--unless I write again before the 1st, with a bit of Robert Frost. I'm not sure why, except it's a poem I love and think about.
The witch that came (the withered hag)
To wash the steps with pail and rag,
Was once the beauty Abishag,
The picture pride of Hollywood.
Too many fall from great and good
For you to doubt the likelihood.
Die early and avoid the fate.
Or if predestined to die late,
Make up your mind to die in state.
Make the whole stock exchange your own!
If need be occupy a throne,
Where nobody can call you crone.
Some have relied on what they knew;
Others on simply being true.
What worked for them might work for you.
No memory of having starred
Atones for later disregard,
Or keeps the end from being hard.
Better to go down dignified
With boughten friendship at your side
Than none at all. Provide, provide!
Posted by George Tannenbaum at 8:37 PM