The System Is Broken

By Samuel Greengard Print this article Print
Broken IT Systems

In an era in which consumers have more choices than ever, broken business and IT models are simply unacceptable. But many firms have lost sight of the customer.

A few weeks ago I wrote about a customer service fail at tour Website Viator. Despite representatives dutifully replying to my messages, the company couldn't resolve a fairly basic problem--apparently, because the firm's processes and IT systems are too rigid to deal with real-world problems.
So, while Viator executives are reviewing customer service metrics and possibly celebrating a high level of service based on responding to inquiries in a timely manner, the firm is actually whiffing at the real-world metric of resolving customer problems. The end result? Unhappy customers.
Unfortunately, customer service breakdowns and complete meltdowns now occur on a regular basis. And there's no end in sight. 
This week, after placing an order at FragranceNet.com, I suddenly realized that I had made a mistake and not selected expedited shipping for Mother's Day. I called the toll-free number and spoke to a customer service rep, but I was told that there is nothing the retailer can do once it processes a payment.
Huh? There's no ability to adjust the order, process a separate charge for expedited shipping, or cancel and reissue the order? "Our IT systems aren't set up to handle changes," the rep stated.
Business and IT leaders at both of these companies--and many others I encounter--need to do some serious soul searching. You can't fix every problem or make every customer happy, though Zappos and Nordstrom seem to have built incredibly successful business models based on the concept of world-class customer service. 
However, you should be able to fix fairly basic problems. Your IT system won't let you do it? Really? Did the dog eat your homework, too?
In an era in which consumers have more choices than ever, broken business and IT models simply don't hack it. I'm going to think twice about doing business with either of these companies in the future. 
As I've previously noted, it's when something goes wrong that a company's loyalty and brand either solidifies or crumbles. Unfortunately, these firms have lost sight of the most important thing: the customer.
In business and IT, all paths lead to a very basic concept: if you don't have customers, you don't have a business.

This article was originally published on 2015-05-04
Samuel Greengard writes about business and technology for Baseline, CIO Insight and other publications. His most recent book is The Internet of Things (MIT Press, 2015).
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