What the big boys could learn from the startups

Maybe it’s because they’re fighting to survive. Perhaps it’s because they don’t yet have millions of customers. Or it might be that it’s actually part of their culture. But if there’s one thing that separates startups from established companies, at least in my experience, it’s customer service, personal attention and real time response.

Last night at 9:45, after two hours of entering grades and comments into Coursekit, the platform I use for teaching, I hit publish and instead of sending the grades off to my 25 students, Coursekit presented me with a blank page.  All my earnest and time consuming efforts gone. I tried to re-enter them from memory figuring I’d at least be close. But when I hit publish for the second time, this batch disappear, too. After a moment of panic — of course I hadn’t saved them anywhere else — I sent Coursekit a public reply on Twitter asking for a follow in order to back channel.

It took a mere 10 minutes for them to reply and even that came with an apology for the delay. They were “in a meeting.” (Funny I’d never believe that from most companies but at 9:45 pm it seemed likely for startup.)

Within another couple of minutes I was on the phone with one of their lead engineers Jim Grandpre. Jim only had a phone with him, but even then he managed to access his servers and summon the second set of grades.  He explained that something had gone wrong with the cache at their end and that it wasn’t due to anything I’d done wrong. (+1 for honest admission of fault).

He then promised that he’d recover the original grades as well as the feedback notes in the morning and would either enter them for me or send me a file so I could do so myself.

Sure enough, the next morning I had everything back. Including a very clear explanation that no one had access to my grades or notes other than he and his co-founder CTO and in no case would either of them access it without my permission.

OK, so American Express comes close to that kind of service when you want them to credit you for a charge you didn’t incur. And Zappos (Mullen client) might take equally good care of you over the phone.

But how many other companies can you think of who are that responsive and then deliver. Not Bank of America, that’s for sure.

Coursekit’s product is awesome. I would probably keep using it even without such responsiveness.  But the fact that there is a real human with a name and accountability to solve problems like this makes me loyal forever.  I just hope that they can make their customer concern part of their culture as they grow and prosper.

What startups are you getting service like this from?

 

7 comments
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edwardboches
edwardboches

@STWnextness I don't think it is because of me. It's due to them.

JeffShattuck
JeffShattuck

Great post, love how the world is changing. ONe line in particular caught my attention: "But the fact that there is a real human with a name and accountability to solve problems like this makes me loyal forever." And that is why Google will never succeed in retail (I point this out as they ready a tablet and in response to issues I've had with DOcs and Gmail).

jeypandian
jeypandian

That's pretty neat Edward. Vizio (the TV company) does this, one of my energy companies did this as well (can't recall the name), I had a power outage and a technician came like ten mins after I tweeted it online to fix it. Amazon used to be good but now I think they are having trouble scaling it. 

 

Agreed on BoA, they suck on customer service, then again most banks who did poorly and gave us the financial collapse have poor customer service.

STWnextness
STWnextness

@edwardboches they sound marvellous. Nothing better than someone who hops on the phone for you out of hours.

edwardboches
edwardboches moderator

 @jeypandian Sometimes I think that the threat of social is forcing companies to do this better. Other times I think that they are petrified of real time engagement of any kind.

edwardboches
edwardboches

.@STWnextness I don't think there are after hours for startups (or ad agencies)

STWnextness
STWnextness

@edwardboches definitely- if only it was the same for all orgs we rely on in our lives/work. Hope all learn lesson of your good experience.