Everybody Says it, but is Everyone Doing it? The Arrogance of Customer Service.

By Rob Wenger posted Oct 19, 2011 11:45

  

It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.

- Warren Buffett

Higher Logic has been very fortunate to have been welcomed and supported by the association and non-profit industry.  With our small beginnings back in 2007, we certainly had our share of growing pains and always strived to provide a great product.  But we also know that providing our product is only a part of the equation and that that is simply not enough.  It is really about building relationships, knowing the market and providing an exceptional experience for our customers.  In a nutshell, customer service has become a driving force among many of the companies thriving during the recession. 

In our world of associations, customer service and member service are interchangeable.  The core objective of customer/member experience is to bring people back and provide a positive experience with your offerings. They in turn, pass positive feedback about your organization along to others, who may then try the product or service you offer for themselves.  

There are great examples of organizations redefining customer service, but one stands out among the crowd.  TOMS shoes was founded on the principal of “The One for One” movement.  For every pair of shoes you buy, they will donate a pair to a child in need.  They have recently introduced a new eyewear line which will benefit those who need eye surgery or glasses.  Not to say this concept has not been tried before, but TOMS seems to have gotten it right. They have provided the customer and a child with a great product (shoes), customer and product communication via facebook, twitter and their website, and in turn paid it forward by providing an organic altruistic experience. And there it is: The Next Level of Customer Experience.  

Today, with the advent of social media, responding to service issue/needs or complaints has completely up-ended the customer/member service continuum.   Imagine 20 years ago, customer and member complaints were limited to phone conversations, some face-to-face and letter writing campaigns and certainly not out there for everyone to bear witness. Nowadays, one bad tweet or posting can go a long, long, (did we mention long?) way and can put your organization in a reactive state.

As a vendor, we recognize that we provide products and services that directly impact your membership.  If our software has a bug or our servers are misbehaving, your members will look to you for the answer.  Therefore, we are very aware that our customer service and response to you is of paramount importance.  How have your experiences been with industry vendors? Every industry is has its stars who get it and conversely those vendors that have a culture of arrogance where their customer service is all about selectivity and making you feel as though you are “lucky” they let you use their product.  Or where you are simply ignored, no matter how much you kick and scream?  No doubt you have many painful stories to share, but the beauty of social media is that is can be such an advantage in customer and member communications and service.

Our on-going promise to our prospects, clients and partners is to continue to improve your experience.  We know that there is still much work to do on our end to meet your expectations and we would like to thank everyone for their patience. We understand that product service is not about new releases and pushing out  functionalities, but really taking the time to listen. Feel free to always reach us on HUG, twitter, Facebook, phone, carrier pigeon – As far as that Next Level customer experience, we will always have room to improve. In 2010, we started a campaign of care in conjunction with our learning series where we donate $1/attendee to a specified charity.  This is a good start, but we have some pretty big shoes to fill.

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Oct 21, 2011 13:29

The thing about traditional customer service with regard to association vendors is that priority seems to be placed on clients who work for big-budget associations. The bigger the budget, the better service the customer receives. But that kind of mentality doesn't work anymore, especially in the association world. Decision-makers at big budget orgs are connected with peers at orgs of all sizes, and talk of poor service happens every day. So a vendor who thinks that they only need to pay attention to certain big-ticket clients may end up being bitten by that attitude when one day an exec who used to work for a small org becomes a decision-maker at the big org, or when the small org exec who was treated poorly shares that experience with peers.
Also, the first thing people tend to do these days is turn to Twitter to blast poor experiences--for better or for worse, it's happening.