Customer Analysts

One final thought on my recent experience with Air Canada and Bell Expressvu: do these companies every approach problems from the customers’ perspective?

Obviously their web sites and their service structure are ivory tower creations, built by desk jockies using ideas generated at corporate boardroom idea sessions. Speaking from experience, it can be the hardest thing to do, get into the customer’s head. I’m not just talking about thinking “outside the box”. I’m saying get up and go outside the building.

Furthermore, I’m not just talking about usability in regards to a web site or a telephone support system. That’s a bit late in the process to solve the problems I’ve identified. I’m talking about customer-ability. Go into peoples’ homes, find out how they live, discover how they want to engage with the machine that is your company.

I’ve revealed a wide chasm between the corporations that are Bell and Air Canada and the experience of the customer. Really, I should be on their payrolls, and they should have other regular, home-oriented folks on there from across Canada. We shouldn’t have to go through any structure or planned process of evaluation with their services and communications. We should just live and engage, then report back to them on our experiences. I would call these positions “Customer Analysts” and truly believe they would be beneficial to large corporations who just can’t seem to see past their cubicle dividers.

One thought on “Customer Analysts

  1. heh heh. I can tell you for a fact that a large number of the product managers at one of those two companies would love nothing more than to get in their customer’s heads and actually sell them what they want (you tend to get more money that way).

    Sadly, when a company is older and changes from a monopoly to a competitor, the folks running the show come from the old school. The old school knows what the customer wants (well, at least what they wanted 20 years ago), and god help you if you try to change it. The exec has an inkling that this is the case, so ignores a lot of what their people who are trying to change things say as well as the old school, and go to external marketing/market analysis companies instead. Those companies are, of course, staffed by all the old school staf who’ve retired or moved to a job that pays decently and know the Bell political game better than the market (because if you know the politics, the execs will continue to buy your services, which to these companies is the big deal).

    The execs then listen to them because they’re paying gobs of money, so the advice must be good, and nothing ever really changes.

    That’s not quite true, but my years there as a product manager were very, very frustrating because everytime you asked “how do we know our customers want this”, you got shouted down because “it’s worked for xx years”. We knew it wasn’t, but at the end of the day, so long as the money comes in, the spreadsheets line up, and the shareholders (who are indisputably #1 internally, and their unrealistic profit changes drive more cuts than anything else) aren’t screaming for the execs skins, nothing changed.

    Such enormous potential, and the sad part is other companies are even worse. There’s an incredible number of smart people who work there who know that customer service is abysmal, that the products don’t compete (and there’s a tonne of reasons for that that have _nothing_ to do with the market per se), and that people love to hate them.

    Unfortunately, the alternatives aren’t a hell of a lot better, and it’ll take someone to truly act competitively instead of just keeping a status quo to change it.

    My opinion, for what it’s worth.

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