Economy

BEST OF THE BLOGS: Why poor customer service beats a sure path to company collapse

Engel Schmidl /

There’s no doubt that technology has changed the nature of work. This, of course, includes the way we expect traditional jobs (such as sales) to be done.

In her blog published on Monday, Sue Barrett explains how salespeople have had to adapt their approach as their relationship with customers has become more and more mediated by technology, especially the internet.

Salespeople, once the guardians of information, have had to come to grips with losing their position of all-knowing advantage. Instead, they must engage with customers who can often get information about a product from many different sources:

Back in the 1970s, salespeople had an important role to play in providing customers with the right kind of information needed to make a purchase decision. As custodians of their product knowledge they doled out their “wisdom”, helping customers understand how their needs could be satisfied with the benefits of the products or services they were selling.

Barrett shows how this is no longer the case.

This shift in power dynamics between sales and customer has seen a move from “needs satisfaction selling” to “solutions selling”. It’s an interesting piece that highlights how important it is for sales professionals to be aware of their tricky and constantly evolving relationship with their customers.

The perils of rebranding

The perils of rebranding are well known and our marketing and brand expert Michel Hogan often brings our attention to some of the bigger brand stuff-ups around.

In her blog on Tuesday, Hogan looked at the case of rental car stalwart Avis, which has decided to replace its longstanding and much recognised “We try harder” tagline. Avis had decided to get a little Zen by replacing it with “It’s your space” – perhaps “It’s your car (at least for the 48-hour hire period)” might be more appropriate?

Hogan doesn’t hold back in her assessment of Avis’ rebranding move:

When you own a promise that has meaning for your customers and other stakeholders, that you’ve lived and worked to keep for decades, and that helped distinguish you from the pack, and you then ditch it for a wishy-washy customer pandering statement that doesn’t mean anything – otherwise known as “It’s your space”, which will probably have a lifespan about the same as the next ad agency contract – well, you deserve whatever happens next.

For Hogan, the space that Avis talks about is empty and bereft of content.

By the numbers?

Sometimes it feels a little like we’re swimming in a thick broth of digital soup – although I’m not sure if it’s as good for the soul as chicken soup.

But Julia Bickerstaff’s blog on Wednesday suggested many businesses might do well to take a closer look at gathering data that is really relevant to their business, rather than measuring the stuff everyone else tells you is important:

But rarely do we measure stuff because we, the guys who are running the business, making decisions, affecting change and managing staff think we should be measuring it.

Bickerstaff points out that many businesses, especially SMEs, are not necessarily by-the-numbers, off-the-rack operations. The data they are collecting might not necessarily be giving them the most accurate picture of what their business looks like, what it does well and where it needs to improve.

What she says is echoed in a story from The New York Times that looked at the surge in restaurant data collection that’s going on in the States and how that is changing the way food people are doing business. With the advent of big data and the proliferation of social media stats, there are bound to be a host of hidden metrics that could throw a whole new light on how you do business.

Online retail didn’t destroy Darrell Lea

On Thursday, business tech blogger Paul Wallbank put the cat among the retail pigeons when he suggested the recent collapse of chains such as Darrell Lea and Allans Billy Hyde had more to do with antiquated management ideas than the challenge of online retail.

Wallbank pointed out an issue many customers have complained about for years: Australian retailers still have no idea about customer service:

Service is an integral part of this story. While the service at Darrell Lea stores wasn’t terrible it also wasn’t particularly notable and neither was the value of many of the products, leaving the customer underwhelmed.

His summation of the retail service deficit was endorsed wholeheartedly by many of our readers, with comments along the lines of “We’ve all known for decades that Australian customer service is almost non-existent” and “Not to make unfair comparisons, but on the few occasions when I have travelled to the US each time I have been overwhelmed by how well they do customer service”.

Executive gender inequality

Today, Colin Benjamin has made the the case for more women to be given an opportunity to join executive ranks. He points out that contrary to what might be perceived as happening, the number of women in executive roles in Australian companies has actually dropped in the last eight years.

Benjamin says Australia ignores gender equality at the executive and board level to the detriment of the economy: “Again there is no sign that attention is being paid to efforts to redress gender inequality as a contribution to longer-term economic prosperity and corporate productivity.”

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