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Customer Service
(April 09, 2001) Built on the tremendous benchmarks set by Restrac and Resumix in the late 90s, the only thing that is worse than the cesspool of duplicate technical development is the miserable customer service in our industry. Known forever as "the people who bring the donuts", account managers and customer service reps alike maintain the standards set by those pioneering companies. Unfortunately, we've run out of adjectives that are both adequate and publishable. Without hyperbole, let's just say that it's pretty dismal.

At its very best, technical support of complex systems is a thankless job. Extremely billable and profitable for enterprise software companies, our industry understaffs with the wrong people because it's a part of overhead.

On the one hand, you could argue "Who could expect decent customer service on a $100 job posting?" Blaming the customer, which is one of the contact sports at trade shows, stems in part from extreme mispricing. We routinely talk with entrepreneurs who lack the experience necessary to forecast their customer service expenditures and, as a result, find themselves in a bind.

On the other hand, pricing seems to vary with the level of embedded service. As we mentioned in an earlier article, it is no longer possible to tell the difference between an employment agency of any type and a job board. Differing price points and customer service, maybe. The basic product is the same, however.

Don't misunderstand. The service levels of typical search and placement firms are nothing to aspire to. Unable to fill huge percentages of their orders, notoriously unethical, uniformly disliked by their customers, understood as the "last resort", the only thing that makes these players look good is the comparison with their new peers. For the price differential, you'd expect much more.

In spite of the possibility for gaining a competitive edge, search firms often offer moronic ideas like this one:

For further information you can contact a real person @brilliantpeople.com. We'll get back to you as soon as possible. Thanks, and good luck!
Clicking on this link opens a piece of email addressed to the webmaster. Yippee! Oversimplifications aside, the industry has the customer service reputation of a matchmaker in a society with a high divorce rate. Job Boards offer little in the way of meaningful quality control. Applicant Tracking systems, which are, after all, fancied up databases, really can only add limited value to the hiring process. On stop shopping services are so young that they don't have the capacity to deliver customer service.

It's worse than that. In mature industries, it is well understood that everyone in the organization has an impact on customer satisfaction. Here, the customer service people are relegated to the organizational back waters. While there are tried and true solutions to the customer service problem, it's as if no one ever heard of them in our industry.

- John Sumser © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.

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