I have found that I had been using the iPad less and less over the past couple of years. At first I thought it was because of the sheer embarrassment of luging around an outdated brick, but I came to realize I really wanted the iPad to be something it’s not, at least not for me. I wanted it to be a lighter laptop replacement, but that required a keyboard and if I was going through the trouble of doing that, I might as well carry a laptop. With more Princess dress-up Apps than productivity tools, I bequeathed my first generation iPad to my daughter. She’s too young to know the social ridicule caused by an obsolete device. I am sure this will change in a few years, but for now she thinks I am awesome for parting with such a technological marvel. Anyway, I digress.
After much deliberation I finally bought a Kindle Fire HDX. My wife is an Amazon Prime subscriber and as an avid reader, this seemed to be a solid choice. A 15% discount sealed the deal. At first pass, I found the UI fairly intuitive, but not as elegant as iOS. In all, it was pretty much what I was expecting. Ignoring my family and endangering marital harmony (through distracted monosyllabic grunts in response to my wife’s completely unreasonable request to put it away during dinner,) I got to work setting it up. Books loaded… check. Audiobooks… check. Facebook, Twitter, Flipboard Apps… check, check and check. How about movies?… no dice.
This seemed like an awesome opportunity to check out Mayday – the Fire’s one-click support service. It turns out movies are only available to the primary Amazon Prime user. We were told not to worry, that we could sync the device with my wife’s account and all would be well. I was impressed as the tech took over and guided the curser to the proposed solution. I have to say; it was a pretty awesome experience, until I went back to books and Audible. Now I had all my wife’s stuff. I clicked the Mayday button again. It turns out there is no way to switch the primary Prime subscriber. If I wanted movies, I’d have to buy another Prime subscription or we’d have to cancel my wife’s Prime subscription and we’d have to buy a new one under my account.
So, what’s the point of this mildly uninteresting tail of woe? I am not the first to observe that customer service is the new marketing. This experience highlights that technology is only one piece of the puzzle. The product is exactly what I wanted at the right price, and the Mayday experience was impressive, but (in this case) Amazon’s policies completely undermined the customer experience. The best I can say is that this impressive technology only enabled Amazon to fail to deliver on my expectations faster.
Customer Service = New Marketing
The growth in adoption and use of technology tools, such as iPads and smartphones, has brought us into the era of customer empowerment. Customers today own the journey through which they interact with businesses, and make purchase and loyalty decisions. As a result, the historical approach of conquering the hearts and minds of customers through precision marketing and sales programs is no longer adequate. Companies need to tailor every interaction to the specific needs of customers, and pay extra attention to the often overlooked but most critical part of the customer journey: post-sale activities, in other words customer service.
A poor service interaction is more than a poorly managed support experience or lost customer. As buyers share their positive or negative experiences through myriad social networks, they directly impact the brand awareness and perceptions of businesses. This means that without getting the service experience right investing substantial amounts in marketing and sales programs will not help companies earn positive word-of-mouth from buyers or increase their spent. The below chart from Aberdeen’s July 2013 Bringing Customer Service into Marketing research validates this. Organizations where customer service is a key part of the activities to manage the company brand achieve far superior results, compared to those with broken service experiences. Read my related study to learn more about how your business can make service the primary differentiator for driving customer delight.