Magazine article Information Today

Customer Relations Checklist

Magazine article Information Today

Customer Relations Checklist

Article excerpt

We've all heard the old saying, "You can't go home again." But when it comes to customer service, "You can't leave home" either. Popular Netflix just experienced a "perfect storm," proving how easily and how quickly you can crash and burn when you start fooling around with customer expectations. Ironically, the more loyal and loving the customer base is, the more violent the pushback may be as customers react with not just disappointment but also a sense of betrayal.

Netflix has prided itself on seeing the future coming and has been building its streaming video service in anticipation of the steady decline of DVD delivery. It ran the two types of service in tandem until this year when it established separate subscription prices for each. In 3 months, it lost 800,000 DVD customers and 200,000 streamers, while the stock price dropped 60%. Ouch!

To placate DVD users, Netflix announced a new subsidiary service called Qwikster just to handle DVDs. But the new service didn't even transfer the customer-created queues detailing the future movies the customers wanted to see. Historians of the internet age may recall that the initial Netflix experience led to Chris Anderson's insights about the long tail. Instead of the traditional 80% of usage drawing on 20% of stock, a significant majority of Netflix users tapped into little-used items. Qwikster didn't last a month.

Rules of the Road

What are the lessons to be learned?

1. Never, repeat, never throw away or ignore customer-contributed content. Personally, I can recall entering rehab for Amazon-aholism when Amazon canceled a service that notified customers when an author had written a new book. This leads to rule No. 2.

2. Always, repeat, always give preferential, super-attentive, nurturing TLC to customers who have money in their hands. If they want to buy, whisk them to the front of the line. Failing to do so makes customers feel more than ignored; they can feel downright insulted, particularly in this internet world where so much fine service is free. "If money doesn't talk, you oughta walk" is the rule many customers follow.

3. If a market for a service declines, let it die a natural death. Don't be seen as its killer. Just slide the body in and bury it when no one is looking. …

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