Should Vonage ape Dell on customer service?
That's what ZDNet's Russell Shaw has to say in his column today. Basically, it's a warning shot to Vonage, and just about every other tech company that relies on call centers armed with scripts and outsourced tech support.
Shaw's pointing to the latest American Customer Satisfaction Index, where Dell and Apple have long outperformed their competition in the hardware market.
Digging deeper, the report's commentary notes that even Dell, a top performer for years in the survey, took a sharp (6 percent) drop in customer satisfaction.
"Customer complaints are up significantly with long wait-times and difficulties with Dell’s call-center abound," said Prof. Claes Fornell, who among his other credits is also the director of the National Quality Research Center at the University of Michigan.
What Fornell's getting at here is something many have experienced firsthand at the consumer level. The customer's time is valuable, and if companies don't treat it accordingly, they run the risk of losing a percentage of their customer base.
All this calls into question the metric companies use to determine whether it is better to reduce the FTE count and outsource customer service to people who make little better than minimum wage, and often aren't even in the same time zone as the companies they call their clients.
For companies that live and die by their customer base, is it really better to hand over their most valuable possession to contractors?
It's a rhetorical question, but from this correspondent's perspective, the formula that includes the drop in fixed costs from outsourcing, should also factor in what happens when the likely attrition of a company's customers begins a few quarters later.