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7 Ways to Tell If Your Company Is Stupid


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For our new book, Smart Customers, Stupid Companies, we spent eighteen months studying the growing chasm between smart customers and stupid companies. The former are increasingly empowered by wireless technologies, computers and sensors that are, well, everywhere. The latter mistakenly think they can get away with the same old sullen and slow approach.

Truth is, our whole economy is changing radically because of disruptive forces like digital sensors and the spread of the Web from computer screens to the physical world.

Here are seven tip-offs that your company is acting stupidly:

1.) Two employees in a row ask the same customer for his or her account number. Any company that can’t figure out how to pass an account number from one representative to another won’t be able to deliver innovative service.

2.) Your company can’t record or remember what a customer says. Customers tell us how often they get the sense that the customer service rep or sales clerk is only listening to them with one ear. They notice that she has no way to record or share your comments. Why would a customer waste their breath talking to a firm that’s too stupid to remember what they say?

3.) Your company spends more money selling than serving. Do you spend more money on advertising than service innovation? In today’s era of radically higher customer expectations, that’s stupid.

4.) Your products come with instructions longer than a postcard. Sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, said science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke. A toddler can figure out how to use an iPad, because doing so is intuitive. A product that needs lengthy instructions isn’t worth money.

5.) Your company closes, ever. We are not talking about a cute little standalone gift shop. But if a 5,000-person company can’t figure out how to help a customer solve a problem at 2 a.m., you don’t understand that 24/7 wireless access means “always open.”

6.) You hunt customers like prey. Pretty soon, companies will be able to track customers everywhere, even inside their own homes. With great power comes great responsibility; a smart firm remembers information for customers, not about them.

7.) Your team doesn’t even know how to spell “personalization,” never mind practice it. Smart companies have figured out how to deliver personal service for the same price as mass-produced products. By the way, personalization is the reason you won’t give your wife your cell phone when she loses hers.

[Adapted from the book Smart Customers, Stupid Companies by Michael Hinshaw and Bruce Kasanoff, available now on Amazon.]