Thursday, July 30, 2009

The 90-10 rule.

America, economists and financiers tell us, is in a post-industrial age. We are no longer the envy of the world because of factories like Willow Run and no longer can we out-produce the rest of the world combined. No, when we want a plastic tomato that walks or even a dreidel for Chanukah, we have to send to China to supply our wants.

Now, there are those that say we live in a service economy and the service factor of the products that are sold here are more important than ever. That is, if you buy a computer or an automobile, chances are your ability to get service for that product is a factor in your decision. So, if service is so important to our economy, why does it suck so bad.

Here's why, in a word, software. Or more accurately those managers who believe that software or science or technology can answer all our service needs. These are the people who create phone trees, mechanized voices and who construct service models that ask for your 16-digit account number 12 times in a single call. These are the cost-cutters who seem to assure the line at the counter is always eight deep and hell will freeze over before you can find knowledgeable help at a chain store.

I have a simple rule, I call it the 90-10 rule. 90% of all customer problems probably can be solved by software. 90% of the books you're looking for at Barnes & Nobel can probably be found via an in-store computer. But 10% of problems need a person's-involvement. A person to say "how can I help you?" A person who is empowered and not following a script that makes them essentially software-based protoplasm. A person who can say "thank you" with conviction.

My sense is that if a FedEx or a Home Despot or even a car company announced that they followed the 90-10 rule, customers would flock to them.

But I am crazy and no one listens to me.

7 comments:

Teenie said...

I hear you. Spending 5 minutes listening to options and pressing random numbers only to get a voice message saying they closed shop 10 minutes ago--that's the new customer service.

Ever try lax, unreachable or surly customer service in advertising? The agency would fold in a heartbeat.

jeaves said...

I have several suppliers and even worked once for a Quebec company. They all close up and won't answer the phones from 12:00-1:00.

I have never understood that one either.

My counterparts once were fined for working on Jean Baptiste day I think it was in Quebec too. Someone called in a complaint seeing cars in the lot and it didnt matter that 100% of their client base was from US. Zing...

Tore Claesson said...

George, spot on. 90 % of the world is mad and you're not, it's just that it's only 10 % left to recognize it. We live in a service society where we've forgotten what service is all about. What's contributing to this sad state of things seems to be the rotation of people. Nowadays nobody stays, or is allowed to stay?, in a service job long enough to recognize repeat customers, and certainly not long enough to learn anything about the product they're supposed to know everything about.

bob hoffman said...

We are not only in a post-industrial age, we are also in a post-service age. In other words, we are in a post-prosperity age.

geo said...

You're good, Mr. Hoffman. You should write a blog or open an agency or something. http://adcontrarian.blogspot.com/
http://hoffmanlewis.com/

Teenie said...

jeaves--no messing with the language police! You can have everyone and their grandmother work Canada Day here, but don't try to open shop on St. Jean.

Sorry for the aside, Geo!

Laura said...

This is soooo true...whatever happened to the adage "the customer is always right." Or friendly, willing assistance as in "service with a smile." It just doesn't exist anymore. What's a sad, confused consumer to do? I have a friend who is dreading calling AT&T and has been building up dread for almost a month. And she hasn't called yet....

Nancy in California