Thanks to new technology, customer service innovations are not just an option, they are a must for most businesses, especially commercial service contractors. To be clear, by “customer service,” I don’t mean more smiling employees on phones reacting to disgruntled customers as this Google image search for “customer service” suggests. Truly modern customer service doesn’t burden companies because technology and processes provide customers with the information they need and enable them to fulfill their goals without assistance.
Every company listed below had strong, well-established competitors that provide great customer service in the classical sense. Innovations to the customer service model is all it took for these companies to overcome their competition and build billion dollar brands. In fairly commoditized industries, these companies found ways to enable customer self-service to differentiate themselves from the competition, enhance their customer service experience, and avoid hiring expensive customer service staff.
As you read about the companies below, think about the customer service experience you’ve had with any them. Have you ever had a phone call or exchanged emails with any of their employees? Would you consider yourself happy with their customer service?
Revenue Multiple: 5.5x
Many would argue that they preferred the great customer service experience they received at a Blockbuster years ago; Employees taking them by the hand and making personal recommendations from a large selection of new releases. However, I think most folks would agree that they are willing to spend more time sifting through Netflix’s older digital selection as long as they don’t have to leave their couch. In fact, so many people prefer Netflix that its annual revenue has surpassed Blockbuster’s highest annual revenue by about $1.5B without selling a single pack of overpriced candy.
Company: Warby Parker
Value: $1.2B (Apr 2015)
Revenue Multiple: 12x (estimate)
For those of you who are half blind like me, you may be more familiar with Warby Parker, a company selling designer frames and glasses for under $100. Aside from the great price point, Warby Parker has two major customer service innovations that have skyrocketed the company’s sales and valuation. First, customers can upload their picture and digitally “try” different frames on. Second, customers can have five frames sent to their home for free to try on before making a purchase. This has the added benefit of enabling the customer to solicit feedback from their friends and family about their selection. This simple tweak to a business model that traditionally required customers to drive to a physical store during business hours and receive advice from a total stranger has been upended by a self-service process that customers love because it is more valuable and convenient.
Company: Dollar Shave Club
Value: Acquired for $1B
Revenue Multiple: 5x
Admittedly, Dollar Shave Club found success through both customer service innovations and great marketing. If you are unfamiliar with their brand, I implore you to watch their first viral marketing video:
Marketing aside, the subscription model that they use was transformative and effective. By simply removing the hassle of remembering to buy new razor blades, Dollar Shave Club solved a simple problem that inevitably happens to everyone. If you do not plan ahead, you will run out of razors which can lead to awkward, stubbly days at the office.
Revenue Multiple: ~15x
Practically everyone is familiar with what Uber has done to transform the taxi experience and dominate the industry. In fact, we wrote an entire blog post explaining exactly what Uber did to the customer service experience in the taxi industry that has enabled such incredible growth and value. Suffice to say, Uber cut out the hassle of dealing with taxi dispatchers, crooked drivers, and broken credit card readers and replaced it with smart technology that empowers the customer.
Revenue Multiple: 3x
Before Amazon, all we had was Walmart, the mall, and catalogs. Personally, I dread all three of those options so I am glad to have an alternative. By simplifying the online retail experience such that customers could easily find and buy whatever they needed, Amazon has taken over. They’ve eliminated so much hassle by removing the need to drive to a physical store during business hours or speaking with a catalog company’s customer service agent on the phone. Traditionally, stores and catalogs offered great customer service with sales teams that guided customers to make informed purchases. However, I will sacrifice the sales guidance every day of the week if it means I can shop from the comfort of my own home.
These companies followed a simple formula for success: Innovate to eliminate hassle for the customer, often with self-service technology or processes. Though self-service often adds additional steps or work for the customer, it is more valuable (when executed effectively) because they can accomplish goals in their own time at their own convenience.
To follow in the footsteps of these successful companies, simply review your current processes and look for customer-facing operations that require high labor and yield low or no revenue. Then, ask yourself if technology or processes can be put in place that eliminate hassle for your customers and enable them to conveniently serve their own needs.