I don’t talk about my job all that often here on the site, but a big part of what I do on an everyday basis is customer service. It’s hearing from customers who have problems. Some of these problems we’ve never experienced before and we are trying to make intelligent decisions on how to best help them while being realistic about what’s possible. This isn’t always easy as people often want a lot, but through the powers of common sense, we’ve managed to balance the needs of the customer and the realities of our company. How do we do this? Simple: we empower the people who interact with our customers to make intelligent decisions. It’s risky and sometimes someone (including myself) gives too much or offers too little. But overall, common sense and care has prevailed over excessive process and standards (although having just enough of both of those is essential as well).
So what does this have to do with Microsoft? Well, my wife is a teacher. For the sake of consistency and to make constant file sharing quick and easy, she decided to go against her Apple geek of a husband’s wishes and purchase Microsoft Word. Now, it’s commonly known that you can’t just buy Microft Word. You’re required to buy the entire office suite. I think we can all agree that an additional $127.49 (the current price of the Office suite) isn’t ideal. Especially when you consider just how into our own pocket she will need to go to properly equip her classroom this year. But my wife wanted to make things easy for herself beacuse she has enough to worry about on a daily basis. So we accepted this fate and off she went to purchase the application.
Just before she hit the buy button, it occurred to her that Microsoft must offer an educator discount. They did and off she went to talk to with one of Microsoft’s super-friendly live chat representatives. And was met with… well, I’ll just let you read the exchange…
So, with a Schools.nyc.gov email account and a .org email account on the same domain as her school’s website (which she clearly must have created on her own to get a more affordable copy of Word), the customer service rep was required to assume that she could not possibly be a real teacher… Well, that’s not fair. I’m sure the rep was smart enough to determine that my wife actually was a teacher, she just wasn’t empowered to do anything about it.
So, where am I going with this? A few places. First, if you supervise a customer service department, make sure you allow your representatives to use both their brain and their heart when helping your customers. If you’re not sure they know how to do this, work with them or hire better people. You’ll lose a few dollars, but you’ll gain more customers than any ad campaign you can conjure. There is no better marketing than care and service. And if your products are capable of helping teachers, especially those in NYC where budgets are painfully thin and salaries comically low, make it easy to help them.
If I’m being honest, I’m just pissed and needed to share this somewhere. Coincidentally, my web-friend, Thanh Pham, happened to mention the 25 books that the “Most Successful Microsoft Leaders Read and Do”. I think the exchange sums things up quite nicely:
And just in case you were curious (and since I’m a fanboy and all…), Apple has never made it anything less than painless for my wife to get a better price on items for her classroom, regardless of her email address.