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Lessons on Customer Care

I have mixed feelings regarding the ongoing woes of Netflix. On the one hand I enjoyed using their services, but on the other hand I was annoyed by their steep price increase and am glad they are feeling pain for their choice. My delight is also because a group of customers decided to make their voices heard by canceling their service, and it has taken a noticeable toll on the company.

In so many companies that rely on a large customer base, the job of customer care is often assigned to a small number of employees. This is how it should be, a few people should focus on customer issues, resolving and preventing them. And in some cases a customer community can be nurtured that helps create an avenue of communication between the company and its customers. In good companies the job of customer care is integrated with the team of people working on the products and services provided. They inform other departments what customers want and how they will react to changes. When things are working well, everyone should have a good idea about what customers want and can plan accordingly.

Sometimes business needs conflict with what customers want. Price increases being the most obvious example. Customers also want the business to survive and thrive, but for the lowest possible cost to them. Here is where Netflix did not listen to their customers, and likely ignored their customer care employees. A 60% increase in price is a large amount for anyone to swallow, especially in such harsh economic times. It demonstrated a cavalier attitude towards Netflix customers and erased a lot of customer goodwill and loyalty. Perhaps Netflix needed to make these increases in order to survive and compete, but they did a horrible job of rolling out these changes. It was some saving grace that they cancelled the split in their services, but a lot of damage was already done.

Bottom line, treat your customers well. In most cases customers will not rally to demonstrate their dissatisfaction as clearly as they did with Netflix, instead they will gradually go elsewhere and encourage others to do so also. Once the tide turns, it can be almost impossible to turn it back.

Comments

( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
henrylyne
Dec. 1st, 2011 11:18 pm (UTC)
Later the same day I wrote this, I was on a conference call with someone who suggested that we could launch a new feature that included elements with poor user experience. He said customer care can handle users that encounter problems, that was their job after all. Exactly the sort of thinking that should be strongly discouraged.
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )