Monday, February 27, 2006

The Ultimate Question

Always insightful blog Adventures in Capitalism blogged a review of Fred Reichhold's new book "The Ulimate Question." It's a good summary and worth checking out. Essentially, it says the best metric for any business is the percentage of customers that would recommend it to a friend.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Reducing customer service costs through product focus and simplicity

The NYT had an interesting article today about a website that publishes the secret codes that get you out of a phone tree and to an actual operator when you call big companies. A great example of the transparency of information in the GME. But even more interesting where these to quotes in the article from a Customer Service expert and a Banker:

'The reason people are dialing the 1-800 number is that they're having a bad experience in some other channel,' said Mark Hurst, founder and president of Creative Good, a consulting firm that advises companies on how to improve the customer experience. He is amazed, he said, at how difficult it remains on most Web sites for customers to do little things like revise an order or track a shipment. 'If e-commerce were much, much simpler,' he said, 'a huge percentage of these calls would never be made.'

JIM KELLY, chief customer service officer at ING Direct, the online bank with 3.5 million customers and deposits of nearly $40 billion, takes the case for simplicity a step further. ING Direct keeps its entire product line simple. It offers a small number of easy-to-understand products such as savings accounts, certificates of deposit and no-frills mortgages. The savings programs entail no annual fees or account minimums.

As a result, the average ING Direct customer calls the bank only 1.6 times a year. The calls that do come in are answered by full-time employees who don't rely on scripted answers and don't work under strict time limits.

'The key word for us is simplicity,' Mr. Kelly said. 'If you eliminate service charges and hidden fees, you eliminate most of the problems and complaints. Then the only reason for people to call is to do business. And those are calls you're eager to take.'

So, if your product is not confusing, people won't call with dumb questions. Sounds good to us!