Monthly Archives: July 2011

How to Not Own a Problem

Any of you know evernote? It is a great little tool that allows users to clip, tag and access web clippings, pdfs and other files. I depend on this tool and its safari plug-in greatly and I imagine many other people do as well.

One of Evernote’s nicest features is its web clipping plug-in for browsers, including safari. A few days ago Apple upgraded Safari and the plug-in stopped working, and apparently needed major upgrade. How should a company address such a situation?

Today, several days after the safari upgrade during which the plug-in was not operational, Evernote sent its subscribers this e-mail:

What can we learn from this e-mail?

  • Apple has upgraded Safari (which we already know) and it is very different to what we had until now
  • Evernote are working hard (which we don’t really care about, we pay subscription to fund that)
  • Apparently they have no clue when a new release will be available
  • … and they do not plan to notify us when it is released

To add insult to injury, Evernote decided for its customers that their tool not working is a “small hassle”. This statement presents two questions: First, how do they know how big the hassle is? and second, if their tool being severely handicapped is a small hassle, why should anyone pay for it?

Now, beside the fact that the link they recommend does not work, what should a company do to deliver news like these:

  • Tell the users something they do not know but care about, for example, when will the new release be available
  • Do not make assumptions about the problem’s impact on your users (hint: do not use “small hassle”)
  • Commit to following0-up, communicate progress and the availability of the new release in the same way you communicated the problem

Benchmarking, why not?

I was going to write a benchmarking post, and then discovered that it was written for me already.  So, back to the drawing board – I will try to add to an already well written article.

Consulting clients, and  some of my bosses (mainly those with marketing background) when I was in the corporate world, keep asking “what’s the industry benchmark?” or “how are we doing against IBM / Oracle / HP / CA / new-competitor-de-jour?”.  My answer was always and remains “I don’t know, I don’t care, and neither should you”.  Here’s why:

  • You never know what you are benchmarking against.  Customer support, unlike finance, has no GAAP equivalent, and the results are not audited.
  • Suppose you knew the benchmark and the way it is measured, now what?  Your decisions will remain the same with or without this information
Here is what I always advise clients:
  • Ask your customers what other vendors are doing that they like, or don’t like.  Understand the differences between your organization and other industry participants.  Know your capabilities and the boundaries your company will not let you cross 
  • Study the industry’s practices and achievements, adapt, emulate and copy shamelessly what makes sense for your operation and your customers like.  Avoid everything else (“IBM / Oracle / HP / CA / new-competitor-de-jour are doing it this way” is not good enough reason to implement anything, but a very good reason to study it
  • Know your own performance and always work improve the parameters that matter to your customers, your employees and your management
  • Customer satisfaction is NOT a benchmark, it is the feedback loop confirming that your customers appreciate the efforts you are making to improve

Last, have faith in what you do and be aware of the gap between cause and effect.  So, not everything you do will immediately manifest itself in the metrics, and certainly not in customer satisfaction results.

What’s your experience with benchmarking?