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No doubt the sentiment behind this goes back to the earliest days of business, but Henry Ford summed it up nicely. And yet, it seems, it’s something so often ignored, or at least forgotten: without customers you have no business!

I had a couple of great reminders of this last week (but I’ll not mention company names as this is illustrative).

Episode 1: I use a US-based Hosted Exchange Server service for my email – it makes keeping everything synchronised across various devices really easy and secure. I’ve been using the same service for some 8 years now and generally it works well. The company provides a range of other hosting services, too, including Microsoft Apps, Sharepoint, Quickbooks, Web Hosting and so on.

However – last Monday morning my email was not working. No problem – I went onto the 24×7 online tech support chat to see if they knew what the problem was. Apparently, this was news to them, but after about 10 minutes (they asked for time to investigate), they came back to tell me there were some servers out and they’d let me know when they were back up.

By day-end, I’d heard nothing, so went online again to ask. This time, the response was a message (clearly one approved by their marketing department) to say they’d had a ransomware attack, were working on rebuilding the systems, and would let me know when there was more information.

No email for a day – inconvenient, but manageable. Odd that they hadn’t let me know earlier, I thought.

Tuesday came and went – by day-end I asked again. Same standard message. Searched Twitter to see if anyone knew anything more. Plenty of people equally in the dark around the world, but no information AT ALL from the company on Twitter, or their website (just complaints from customers about not getting through to the service desk, getting responses, etc.).

By now, people running time/mission critical services were getting very upset, of course.

Wednesday – a repeat of Tuesday. And still no public announcements from the company or any other communication (e.g. estimates of when systems would be available again).

Finally, on Thursday afternoon, my email started connecting again although all the messages since Monday had disappeared somewhere, but at least I was getting new ones. No message to me from the company, of course, but they did finally Tweet to say they’d had the attack and 65% of systems were now up with the rest expected during the course of Thursday.

Friday morning, email back down. Get hold of the support chat line and am told after a bit of a pause, that the system of which my services forms a part was down for scheduled maintenance! No warning, and why did they not do this as part of the rebuild process instead of taking it down again. So, no email again all Friday (basically, a lost week!). Finally came up, and seems to be stable, on Friday night (but the week’s emails have gone).

Why did they not get more proactive with customer communication? After all, their customers are their lifeblood, so ignoring them in this way will result in many leaving for other service providers (I’m looking around, too). I understand these attacks are becoming more frequent and difficult, but have plans in place for when things happen – both to switch to backup systems, maybe route traffic to somebody else as an interim measure, and to keep customers informed. A week’s downtime is unacceptable, as is the way customers were basically ignored.

My second incident of the week was with a local company – one that provides my cell-phone service (and has done for some 7 years). I was having trouble connecting from my iPad (phone was OK, but iPad wasn’t, for no discernible reason). I went online to see what might be happening, but nothing there and all information showed there were no reasons why I should have trouble connecting.

The company, too, has an online chat service, but only for sales enquiries, not support. The message here was that once they have your money, you’re on your own! I tried to call the service line but anything service related needed me to enter a PIN and I had no idea what that was (still don’t) or where to find it. Without the PIN, no service and no ability to talk to anyone. Of course, you could get through to sales, but they couldn’t help…

As it happens, a few frustrating hours later my iPad started connecting again, so I no longer needed help (not that I could get it).

Do companies not look critically at their customer interfaces and experience and imagine what it is like to be a customer needing some sort of help? Can you outdo your competition by providing decent service and support?

Judging by the events of last week, this bar is not very high, so giving your business an edge should be fairly straightforward. It’s certainly worth looking at – be your own “mystery shopper” from a service perspective and see what happens. You might be amazed (or horrified)!

 

Remember, too: “Trust takes years to build, seconds to break, and forever to repair.” (Unknown)

 

#BusinessFitness #CustomerCare #CustomerExperience #CustomerService #Excellence #Loyalty #Planning #ProblemSolving #Risk #Service #QOTW

 

Some of my other recent short posts that might be of interest in connection with this topic: