Meeting the needs of new customers doesn’t mean abandoning your old ones
I’m always on the lookout for things that happen in my daily life that have applicability to service and support, and there’s an idea that has been occurring to me every morning when I read the paper and today I decided to bring that idea to you. As much as I have written about evolving support operations to meet the requirements of new customers, such as embracing customer forums and non-phone channels, this doesn’t mean abandoning the support processes that your existing customers have come to expect. In other words, doing new things doesn’t mean you have to abandon everything that has worked in the past. If you do, you run the risk of alienating your existing customer base and giving them reason to churn.
Boy, this is sure a message I wish the San Jose Mercury News, the newspaper of Silicon Valley, would learn. When I first moved here in 1995, the Merc was nationally known, with news bureaus and reporters in major cities, including an international presence. Their coverage of technology was fantastic, addressing trends in semiconductors, enterprise software, network hardware, you name it. With the huge number of large tech companies based here, getting CEO interviews is pretty easy.
I know times are hard for newspapers these days. The classifieds, which represented a very thick section just for employment ads during the tech boom, have all but evaporated. Who needs published ads, obsolete by the time they hit the street, when you have Craigslist? Do I have the answer to their revenue shortfalls? No, not my industry. But just like support organizations in the year after the boom, the Merc continues to cut, cut, cut the budgets and customer deliverables to save money, leaving the customers disgruntled and ready to find another source for news.
First the paper shrunk in size, from the standard ‘broadsheet’ width of the New York Times to the svelte size of the US Today. Then they started firing staff. After endless reorgs, management and ownership changes, today the majority of articles are from wire services. Maybe that’s not so bad, but it means they completely ignore local stories. Last week there were over 100,000 war protesters marching in San Francisco, as well as a protest in downtown San Jose. Not a word was mentioned by the Merc. Furthermore, I travel for business frequently and always read newspapers on the road. A disturbing trend I’m finding is that after I’ve been home for a few days, I’m still seeing 3, 4 or 5 day old wire stories showing up in the Merc. So not only do they not publish original work, they don’t even publish their wire stories when they come across the press.
I could go on and on. The last redesign eliminated the Opinion section–the last part of the paper with a local voice. The business section is now an embarrassment. They have one remaining tech writer who can only write about whatever cool consumer device came out that week–we are being iPhoned to death–but NOTHING on B2B technology, i.e., the local companies that continue to drive the local, state and national economies. It’s like they don’t exist anymore.
But my biggest gripe, and the reason for this rant, is how the Merc is trying to push us online where it is cheaper for them to write and publish news. I do not subscribe to their print newspaper, and patiently sit every morning in the dark waiting for the delivery guy to drive by, to be taunted with ads for all the stories they have online–but not in the print edition. First the paper shrunk in width and number of sections, and now the few remaining pages are filled with reprints from blogs, RSS feeds, and ads for online stories.
Trust me. Those of us who subscribe to print newspapers like getting our news though this channel: printed on paper to read in the morning with our coffee, on the train to work, or at lunch. I love online news too–I’m a tech analyst for gosh sakes–but that doesn’t mean I abandoned my original channel: the print edition.
So what’s the take away from this rant? Offer new channels. Encourage customers to take advantage of new channels. But don’t eliminate the channels that attracted customers to you in the first place. If you can no longer service your channels effectively, industry consolidation occurs.
I, for one, am looking forward to the Merc being bought by another paper, hopefully the San Francisco Chronicle. Meanwhile, I just subscribed to the New York Times. This customer is churing.
Thanks for reading! Please drop me a line or add a comment, I’d love to hear your thoughts.