7 Ways to Tell If Your Company Is Stupid

by Bruce Kasanoff on May 3, 2012

Here are seven tip-offs that your company is acting stupidly:

1.) Two employees in a row ask the same customer for his or her account number. Any company that can’t figure out how to pass an account number from one representative to another won’t be able to deliver innovative service.

2.) Your company can’t record or remember what a customer says. Customers tell us how often they get the sense that the customer service rep or sales clerk is only listening to them with one ear. They notice that she has no way to record or share your comments. Why would a customer waste their breath talking to a firm that’s too stupid to remember what they say?

3.) Your company spends more money selling than serving. Do you spend more money on advertising than service innovation? In today’s era of radically higher customer expectations, that’s stupid.

4.) Your products come with instructions longer than a postcard. Sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, said science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke. A toddler can figure out how to use an iPad, because doing so is intuitive. A product that needs lengthy instructions isn’t worth money.

5.) Your company closes, ever. We are not talking about a cute little standalone gift shop. But if a 5,000-person company can’t figure out how to help a customer solve a problem at 2 a.m., you don’t understand that 24/7 wireless access means “always open.”

6.) You hunt customers like prey. Pretty soon, companies will be able to track customers everywhere, even inside their own homes. With great power comes great responsibility; a smart firm remembers information for customers, not about them.

7.) Your team doesn’t even know how to spell “personalization,” never mind practice it. Smart companies have figured out how to deliver personal service for the same price as mass-produced products. By the way, personalization is the reason you won’t give your wife your cell phone when she loses hers.

Adapted from the book Smart Customers, Stupid Companies by Michael Hinshaw and Bruce Kasanoff. You can read the first chapter for free (PDF).

(This post originally appeared on LinkedIn)

New technology is sparking a race to make everything smart: clothing, toasters, cars, vending machines, swimming pools, restaurants, traffic lights, faucets, and even your garden.

Touchpoints exist wherever a company touches its customers: products, services, training, pricing, packaging, promotion, installation, supplies, billing, and personal contacts.

With a list this long, things can get complicated fast. One way to reduce the complexity of understanding touchpoints is to realize that there are only three kinds of touchpoints: human, dumb, and smart.

The first category includes not only all your company’s employees, but also those of your distributors and partners. I’m not going to explore this category further in this post, because people aren’t changing nearly as fast as technology, which directly impacts the other two categories.

Dumb touchpoints are static. They don’t gather data. They tend to send information one way, usually from the company to the customer. Think about a cardboard box, a printed newspaper ad, or a bookcase made by the company. Until recently, most products themselves were dumb touchpoints.

Smart touchpoints are interactive. They have the capability to sense something happening in the physical world, and they enable two-way interactions between the customer and either the company or its products and services.

Kinect for Xbox 360 is an example of a smart touchpoint reinvention of video games. The game consule includes both sensors that track the players as well as an operating system with speech recognition. When one of three players leaves the room, Kinect knows who left. When you want Kinect to do something, you often can just talk to it.

In their most robust incarnation, smart touchpoints include three elements:

Sensor (sense): The touchpoint includes, or can access, one or more sensors that enable it to better understand the customer’s actions and/or events of interest to the customer.

System (decide): Data from the sensor enters a computer system – it could be a phone, tablet, PC, or company network – which then decides what to do next. For example, if the customer has a question about assembling the bookcase, the system might decide to start the “step 3″ video demonstration. The system is where companies incorporate the intelligence that elevates customer experience.

Products and Services (respond): The system should trigger a response through the company’s products and/or services. The key here is to respond intelligently. The more intelligent the response, the more likely it is not only to encourage the customer to share additional feedback but also to value and embrace the company’s offerings.

You’d be wise to interpret “services” as broadly as possible. Sometimes the smartest thing a company can do for a customer is to send them elsewhere, or to connect them with other customers. Plus, smart touchpoints open up nearly limitless possibilities to generate revenues through new smart services.

This sense/decide/respond cycle produces intelligent behaviors. It is a giant step forward from the product-driven “sell, sell, sell” approach many companies have traditionally used. (If at first you don’t succeed, sell harder.)

Michael Hinshaw and I wrote about this in Smart Customers, Stupid Companies. We believe companies that fail to aggressively compete in this race will end up either dead or forced to compete on the basis of price. That’s an ugly place to live, because you are always at the mercy of your dumbest competitor, the one willing to reduce prices below the breakeven point.

Far better to get smart, asap.

You might also like:
- Bruce’s speeches and workshops
- About Bruce

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