My washing machine broke down not so long ago. The rubber seal had somehow got a hole in it and was leaking water all over the kitchen floor.
Two years ago and the likelihood was that I would ring up the company I bought the machine from to come and fix the problem. It would take a few days to get one of their engineers round, piles of washing would rise up round the house in the interim, but eventually it would be sorted. The cost to me: time making the appointment for the engineer to come round, time to make sure I was at home, and the cost of the part and labour.
Two years on and things have changed. Instead I started out by doing a search on Google. Found the spare part I needed, bought it online and then did another search, this time on YouTube. Eventually I found a video of someone replacing the door seal.
When the replacement seal arrived, I set up the video beside the washing machine and worked through it until the new seal was in place. The cost to me: my time and the cost of the replacement seal.
This experience got me thinking about the role of sites such as Google or YouTube within the service ecosystem. From a customer’s point of view, these sites increasingly form an integral and natural part of trying to resolve a problem we might have. Rather than going back to the company we bought the product or service from we often look elsewhere for help. And if Google or YouTube is that first port of call, what is the implication of this on a company’s existing customer service proposition?
Should a company simply outsource solutions where relevant to sites such as Google or YouTube? Integrate them somehow? Or continue to believe that their solution is the right and only one possible?
Whichever path you choose to go down, don’t necessarily think about whether it’s the right one for you, but rather the opportunities you are missing out on or actually gaining in doing so. And in the final analysis: what are your customers doing?