09 juli 2006

The Service Manifesto

In a world where more and more of the same is becoming the most compelling business proposition, it is extremely hard to make a product stand out in the crowd.We've worn out all of our famous 4 P's long ago - until the level where only rubbing in our brands into the brains of our target groups seemed a sustainable way to distinguish ourselves. But brands are becoming less and less interesting to our customers. Because, once again, all brands are becoming more and more of the same boring same. Therefore I think branding is also a dead end track.
Customers want a good product, or a good service - nothing less, nothing more.
Up till now we have been using - or abusing - technology in the same way we abused marketing communications - namely mainly as a means to rationalize our operations. To undress our services to the bone. To make our operations more efficient. To make our sales more effective. To improve our margins - preferably without adding value to our delivery. Probably one of the most destructive abuses in the history of business has been in automating customer services.Where concepts for self help are presently more popular than concepts to improve a customer's experience.Where premium rate voice response systems lead us into waiting queues, and - only if we're lucky - into the hands of students who read their answers from computer generated Q & A scripts.
What's so entirely wrong about these concepts, is that they completely ignore the fact that only a small percentage of our customers are in fact self sufficient, and even a smaller percentage want to be self sufficient. We've always known this. The art and science of direct marketing has learned us since World War 2 that only a minor part of our markets can be developed through customers who don't need a normal dose of service. Nevertheless, we're presently trying to push complete user bases into the lame claws of our CRM systems.
What most people really want is simply to get appropriate service, especially when they need it, the moment they need it. More service. Better service. Service that makes their lives easier instead of more difficult. Service that takes away hassles. Service that enables them to spend their precious time on things that are worth wile. Service that honestly tries to give them a better customer experience.
In a future where we will dominantly have to live with one person markets, we'll have to live with customers who don't accept that they are shouted at, through advertising, and who won't accept that they have to maintain a dialogue with a software. The futures of commercial communications AND of services is in H2H. Human to Human.

(Presentation text for Club of Amsterdam seminar, 2005).

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