Recently Netflix in the US changed how their business model works, and in the aftermath they have experienced a steady stream of abuse in the media (here, here, here, and you get the idea), and significant losses in share price. The noise is mainly the sucking sound made by tribes of angry subscribers leaving after price hikes and planned changes to the service (including splitting the service into two separate companies).
What’s interesting about all the hullabaloo, is that some very real principles about what customer service has become are starting to be codified, using the company’s missteps as object lessons of what not to do.
1. Get inside your customer’s heads when it comes to value. You have to do your homework to understand how the price-value equation works for your customers. Just because there is a way for your planned changes to drop the price for one element of your service, doesn’t mean that your customers view your service that way. It’s like the opposite of how bundling works - you can charge more for bundled services as long as the customer sees a discount hiding in there. By unbundling their products, NF gave their customers the reverse stress of seeing a full-price paid for each service, rather than a deal.
2. Realize that your best customers don’t care about your business model. It may be obvious to you why you’re making changes to your service or structure, but keep in mind that users see you (hopefully) as a solution to a problem that they have, not an enterprise with a long-range plan. If you simply have to make a change, then be prepared to show the users how it benefits them directly, not just why it’s good for you.
3. Don’t underestimate the need for continuity amongst your users. Understand that if you’ve done your job right, then your customers feel that THEY own your brand, not the other way around. There are so many great examples of how angry people can get in this regard: Gap’s logo gaffe, recent Facebook changes, and the list goes on and on. It’s not that you can’t ever change things successfully, but you have to be sensitive to how it impacts your user community.
4. If (or more likely, _when_) you have to apologize, make sure that you sound humble. It can be grating to read an apology that reads defensive and seems to imply that the reader doesn’t ‘get it’. Try to sound more like you’ve learned something, rather than you’ve been misunderstood.
Have you learned any other painful nuggets of wisdom regarding customer service for your product or service?
Photo: David Armano, on Flickr