Usman Ghani (October 8, 2013)
The constant pressure on employees to improve customer service by organizations shouldn’t be underestimated, and should be given its deserved value. The times have changed from when customer service was limited to an operator on the other end, or walking to the franchise to fill in a form. 2013 is about powerful customers who flood the media with feedback regarding every single aspect of the service, becoming opinion leaders and influencing other customer’s decisions as well.
In order to beat the competition and scale up reviews and positive feedback, companies have no other choice but to listen to the consumer and satisfy their needs and become problem solvers. This is a great challenge for companies these days because they have to constantly keep changing and working around the needs of the customer, and only the customer.
A recent example of this was when Du in UAE raised the cost of their most basic internet and call package from Dh199 per month to Dh275 from September 1st, without leaving the customers to choose between packages and automatically updating their packages.
DU says the new 8 Mbps service has improvements such as free national landline calls, free international minutes and an on-demand movie service. However customers’ complained that they didn’t need these services and they were not informed of the price hike.
An upset customer reported, “Considering I never resort to using my landline, the stated free calling benefits are absolutely worthless,” he said. “I would much rather be given the option to select the base package and then opt for value-added services rather than being forced into them”.
Krysia Januszewski said the “improved” services were of little interest because “we never ever use our home phone”.
DU customers spread their anger all over the media, especially twitter, where they were constantly complaining about the new rates of Du that they were not informed earlier. Du was not being able to handle the flood of angry messages and couldn’t handle the traffic either.
One person tweeted a frustrated tweet saying, “So @dutweets just decided to increase rates by over 20 per cent and customers find out accidentally – daylight robbery.”
Du neglected the basic rule of customer service; giving the customer control and knowledge over the service that is being offered. If Du had only shared this information prior to the notice or given an option, the outbreak of customer response would not be so large.
To the above tweet, the official du Twitter account gave a rule breaking response of: “Hey! If you don’t want to continue with the services, you can cancel your account at one of our stores.”
This is a sure mistake when it comes to customer service and how a team should react towards complains coming towards it, and should embrace them positively, always looking for a chance to satisfy or win over the customer. However later, there was a response from the official twitter account stating “We take your concerns seriously and apologise [sic] for the earlier tweet. We are more than happy to clarify any of your concerns.”
The highly competitive, Etisalat, has also launched its new plan for the year, but are not making their customers switch between plans, allowing them to keep the package they want. Rashed Al Abbar, vice president of home product market at Etisalat, said, “It is not a forced migration – new customers can enjoy new speeds and if you are on the 8mbps today, the new 10mbps is the same price.”
The constant pressure imposed from the customers led the company to rethink its new plan policies and changed their offering for their customers. This was a clear example of how customers are pushing companies in today’s challenging times in becoming customer centric and customer driven.
The voice of the customer led Du to change their plan; the customers will still be upgraded to the higher price package, but will have three months to unsubscribe and return to their previous plan.
“It has always been our brand value to offer customers the freedom of choice,” the telecoms company said.
We can clearly see that the power of a customer is very strong and dominating in today’s transparent marketing, where the consumer drives the business, by telling them what is acceptable and what is not! It gets very easy for them especially when the social media creates fervor and spreads opinions like fire. This leaves very little room for businesses to mess around or take advantage of its customers.
The customer is the center of the business today and continues to dominate the market with telling the businesses what they like and dislike. This is almost starting the shift towards customized marketing and service offerings, which will be a newer challenge for the companies.
A spokesperson of Du said to the news that: “With regard to the recently announced revision to our Home Service Packages, we would like to clarify that it has always been our brand value to offer customers the freedom of choice. With effect from 1 September 2013 and for a period of three months thereafter, existing customers will be able to unsubscribe from the new package and return to their existing packages.”
It’s quite surprising that Du went on to change their package without informing the customers let alone giving them a choice. There were so many ways Du could have brought the new plan to the customer’s knowledge.
They could have shared information of upcoming change through their bills, emails or advertisements that could have given the customers awareness of the new package plan or the direction Du was taking. However they failed to get the information to the real source and ended up attracting all the negative attention.
The classic concept of “the customer is always right” might come with a cost, which is definitely more rewarding them publically asking the customer to switch business if he is dissatisfied .Always listen to the customer even if he’s wrong, because they are the business providers for you. The tweet: “Hey! If you don’t want to continue with the services, you can cancel your account at one of our stores.” was a bad idea. They could have been polite and left a great impression on the customer but instead of that they have completely lost the customer! Always deal with customers complaints with taking the responsibilities on your shoulder and never send them back without a solution.
It’s quite challenging to fathom what exactly Du was planning to achieve out of this shift, because all it did was instigate the customers to retaliate and get angry at the company and its sales team. Du should have been smarter enough to gain enough consumer preference before getting into this shift. Surveys would have been a good idea to get feedback from the customers and known their preferences. This would have been useful information for the marketing team, which could have used it to make better decisions.
Du should have focused more on long term planning than instantly changing their package and bringing disappointment to the customers, who felt that information sharing was limited and Du was only thinking of gaining profits by raising the bar of the price charges.
Du should have kept in mind that customers don’t use the landline much anymore, since the integrated use of the mobile phones have started, which are pretty much used for everything now.
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