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Want Loyalty? Respond faster!

By Steve Scheidecker -- Get free updates of new posts here

The other night while working late every single one of my Pandora stations had hit a funk.  For serious work I need two things — coffee and tunes.  I had the coffee, I didn’t have the tunes.  In order to get back into my zone I decided to visit Napster.com and use my Napster subscription.  On arriving to Napster.com I was greeted with a white page and a beautiful error message, far from the fix I was looking for.  Every hour I would check to see if things were back up and running.  After 4 hours of down-time, I decided to send an email to Napster customer service in case the outage hadn’t been reported.  This was Wednesday evening.  On Thursday afternoon while I had yet to receive a response from Napster, an email from Netflix arrived in my inbox.  Netflix sent an email apologizing for a service interruption and provided a link that could be clicked to receive 2% off my bill.  I had never reported any problems to Netflix, yet here was an email telling me about a problem I MAY have had along with a link for instant resolution.

This situation highlights the difference between a company seeking to be proactive and one that is simply reactive.  (well, they have not even reacted yet…) Most companies operate like Napster, failing to act until a customer reports a problem.  I reported the problem to Napster, but even my quick email was a waste of my time for a $9/month subscription.  There are probably thousands of people that experienced the same problem with Napster that evening but never reported it.  I’m confident that Napster knows they experienced service problems, the outage was far too prolonged to have gone un-noticed.  Yet Napster fails to send any acknowledgment of a problem to their users.

Netflix’s approach is brilliant.  Even though Netflix probably knew there was a good chance I did not experience any problems, they used a small discount to hedge against the outside possibility.  The discount would have amounted to less than $1, but this is really about more than just a discount.  As a customer this activity goes far beyond the monetary offering and shows the transparency at Netflix.   They are not afraid to admit when there may be a problem — even before it may be noticed.

As a company this shows the goodwill AND monetary benefits that can be derived from fast customer service response.  The faster you respond the more positively a customer will react to a problem and the less monetary compensation they require to remain happy.  Netflix’s proactive response with a 2% discount goes further in retaining my business than if Napster was to send me an email tomorrow offering a 100% discount.  Anything that you can do to improve the speed of responses to your customers will have positive ramifications.  This is not medium specific, faster responses are better everywhere.  Customers will be happier with a faster response no matter if they are posting on Facebook, Tweeting, holding on the phone, sending email, leaving voicemail or posting on help forums.  Strive to respond to situations before the customer even recognizes they exist while reacting quickly to everything that is reported.

The Napster Error Screen

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