I know I'm a bit odd. And if you read this newsletter from time to time, you know it, too.
Last week, the universe conspired to make me focus on one thing over and over: Customer Service.
There are so many pieces to this story, it's hard to know where to start. But the bottom line is:
Competence is Not Enough !!!
-- -- --
One of my fundamental beliefs about business is that small businesses, as a rule, are capable of providing much better service than large businesses. In fact, I believe the overall level of customer service is inversely related to size.
At this point, people love to insert their favorite exception to the rule. But it's important to not make decisions or take take action based on the exception to the rule. One of my favorite examples of great customer service involves United Airlines. But overall, I think UA service is about the same as most other large airlines.
My company hosts about 130 domains (web sites, email, related databases, DNS, etc.), mostly our own. But we manage DNS and domain registration for most of my former managed service clients. And we host web sites for about a dozen companies.
We have a handful of web sites that are critical - meaning they are important revenue-related sites such as my online community and our storefront. Over the last few years, we moved these critical sites, one by one, to a dedicated server. All good.
Then, in May, we experienced some slowdown across sites on our shared hosting account, where all the other domains lived. Here's where things started to go south.
A smart technician recommended that we most a few sites to the dedicated server to improve performance. We did, and it worked.
Then another smart technician recommended that we move all of our sites. We did, but there were minor issues.
As sites moved and issues, mounted, we found ourselves in a very common situation:
1) Every tech support person we talked to was extremely competent and good at what they do.
2) No one was responsible for looking at the big picture.
I say this is common because I've had the same exact experience with Comcast, AT&T, Dell, HP, Microsoft, and others. Every technician is competent, but the organization can still deliver bad service.
This is why you need to close the loop: Check in with your clients. Ask how things are going. Verify that they are having a positive experience. Remember, you might be doing everything correct and by the book, and they can still be having a bad experience.
And this is where it helps to be a smaller company. It is harder for issues to get out of hand in a small IT shop. And it's easier for someone (probably the service manager) to take ownership of a problem, get their arms around it, look at the big picture, and find a speedy solution.
As with all other challenges, these incidents can be addressed by standard operating procedures. Close the loop. Check back with the client. Host regular technology roadmap meetings. Have triggers in tickets (and projects) so that recurring problems are escalated and someone has to look at the big picture.
Also, remember: Blame is not helpful. Remember, one of the elements of this situation is that everyone is competent and everyone did the right thing. So you probably won't find a "mistake" or a moment when SOPs failed.
You really can do everything right and still have something go wrong.
-- -- --
In other news . . .
-- -- --