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Monday, January 17, 2011

Rethinking Business

Paul Ford has a great post The Web Is A Customer Service Medium. His point is that the web can do fabulous customer service and that is what browsers want. It's a more satisfying way of explaining what is often called information wants to be free.

Customer service, or customer care as it was defined at McCaw, often starts as some hero satisfying a customer. Heroes get crushed by big systems.

What the post suggests us is that successful offerings must be designed to take advantage of web-based customer service.

Did you ever call the Google Help Desk? 1-800-GOOGLE? Nobody answers.

Google and their peers have designed products so they can be used by people who have to use search to learn to use their tools, for instance, Google Sites, Blogger, YouTube, and Google Profiles.

Microsoft, which earlier brought computing to the masses, created a culture of guru assisted computing. If you are a corporate user, you probably have (or are looking for) a human resource to pray over your sick computer and make it better, or at least give a plausible explanation of why it won't work.

An electrical engineer, a chemical engineer, a materials engineer, and a computer engineer all get off the plane at the little airport and realize they are going to see the same customer. They decide to rent one car and ride together. On the road out of the airport the rental car dies.


The electrical engineer says, "We should pull the spark plug wires to make sure we have a good connection!"


The chemical engineer says, "It sounded to me like bad fuel. We should drain the gas tank!" 


The materials engineer says, "It sounded like the bearings. We should pull the crankshaft!" 


They turn to look at the computer engineer. He thinks for a minute, then says, "How about we roll down the windows and roll them back up?"

I've worked with some of the best, and I've noticed no two computer gurus solve the problems the same way.

Back to rethinking business. Have you designed your offering so your customers can easily use your products by themselves, or do they need to call someone to read to them from a manual or database?

Putting a human interface between the customer and their solution creates a rich cost structure and a barrier to growth that makes your offering a prime target for being displaced...soon.

Are you building toward a web-supported offering?