Thursday, August 29, 2013

Communication is Good, or Why Opaqueness is Not A Feature

Another day, another fiber cut. This time the telephone company's fiber met another backhoe and phone service was jacked up for 4 communities. Data stayed up (thankfully!). This outage was very exciting because phone service was completely down. Outbound and inbound calling did not work at all for our PRI and calling into the telco's exchanges from cell phones either gave a generic wireless provider message or told you that all circuits are busy.

Fun times when you work in the financial sector and members need to call you about their accounts!

I tried calling the telephone company but, naturally, their phones were also down. Fortunately I live a digitally enhanced life and stash all data I run across in one system or another. Found our sales rep's cell phone number and gave him a call for a status update. A short while later I got a fantastic email from him not only describing the issue but it also had the internal ticket that gave all the details! He continued to give me updates throughout the day, always including the internal tickets with the details. This was pure gold! It had service area affected, details, what services were down, and ETA for fixes.

Just think: what if they had just emailed all their business customers' technical contacts the internal ticket? No one would have called, no one would have been angry (hey, fiber cuts happen and I accept that), everyone would have had what they needed.

Being opaque when dealing with customers and partners is all too often seen as beneficial to the organization. Making people come to you for information feels like it keeps you in control of the relationship. The problem is, even for vendors of commodity services, only your competition will benefit from you not engaging your customers. Today communication is cheap and data is plentiful. We expect every vendor to be able to keep us informed and that's not necessarily an unreasonable expectation. With minimal effort, even a limited amount of data can be given out and that might be all it takes to engage or satisfy the customer.

You have information systems and communication platforms, use them to add value to your service. Your customers will be happy.