Did the hardest part of customer service just get easier? – Interview with Michael Schneider of Service

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Today’s interview is with Michael Schneider who is the founder & CEO of Los Angeles-based Service (getservice.com), which is providing “on demand customer service” – this means that they helping consumers resolve issues that they have with businesses by taking them off their hands and managing their resolution. Michael joins me today to talk about what they are up to, how they do it, what he has learnt over the last few months and where they are going next.

This interview follows on from my recent interview – The only person that everyone has in common is the customer – Interview with Ben Reason of Livework – and is number 165 in the series of interviews with authors and business leaders that are doing great things, helping businesses innovate and delivering great service and experience to their customers.

Highlights of my interview with Michael:

  • This is Michael’s fifth start-up.
  • Service’s tagline is ‘on-demand customer service’, which means the rather than contacting a company yourself when you have a problem you can get in touch with Service and they will help you resolve your issue.
  • They’ve only been operating for seven months but in that time they have resolved over 6,000 complaints.
  • They are completely neutral in that they are on no-one’s side and sit in between the customer and the business
  • They don’t believe the adage that ‘the customer is always right’. They believe that the customer is sometimes right, they have been wronged by a business and they will fight to get their issue resolved. However, there are also times when the customer is obviously being unreasonable and on those occasions they will protect the business. But, on those occasions they will treat the customer with empathy, let them get their frustration off their chests and also explain why their case is not progressing.
  • Businesses actually respond well to working with Service as their approach is very straight-forward, follows their process and they can manage an issue without much of the emotion that comes with a direct complaint from a customer.
  • Service are a technology company and not a call centre so they are intent on building a software platform that learns as they resolve more issues and then automates much of the process. They currently are in the midst of learning about the many different complaint procedures of the companies that customers have asked them to deal with.
  • They have mapped the processes of many of the firms that they have been asked to deal with so far and in doing so have found what is the most effective way to resolve a complaint and through which channel.
  • The emotional aspect to complaints is troublesome. It’s not the most effective approach if you are a customer and want a swift resolution to your problem and it can be very taxing for an employee when dealing with an emotionally-charged customer who has a complaint. When dealing with an emotional and/or angry customer, it can make it harder for the employee to understand what really happened and how the business may be able to resolve the issue.
  • Michael’s preference is to leave Service free for consumers but believes there is a lot of value in what they are doing for business in that it could help protect their brand, reduce agent attrition and increase efficiency or effectiveness of complaint resolution.
  • Michael believes that they will be able to get to the stage that they can resolve a case for a lot less money than it currently costs an organisation.
  • People in the US and the UK don’t really complain that much as they tend to think that there isn’t much point. But, that’s a problem as rather than complain they will go home and tell all of their family and friends. This is similar to the complaints iceberg idea.
  • Currently, their top three categories are travel (flight cancellations, bags, delays etc make up the lion’s share), telecoms (bill shock/changes is the biggest issue) and retail (packages not arriving, price matches, broken products etc).
  • Because they have resolved over 6,000 complaints so far it is giving them an interesting insight into the major and recurring issues that some firms are facing.
  • For example, one airline in the US seems to have recurring and major operational issues that prevents them from taking off on time – the issues that they face on a regular basis include having a pilot missing or a flight attendant not show up. But, this carrier is also one of the most generous when things go wrong. As a result, when things do go wrong they go out of their way to make things really right as they probably recognise the operational issues that they are facing. Conversely, there is another US carrier that is much better operationally but they are much stingier when things go wrong.
  • Through their data they are getting a clear insight into which companies care when things go wrong.
  • What they are also finding out is how reasonable most people are and how unreasonable some people can be.
  • It’s not always about financial compensation when it comes to complaint resolution. Often, people just want to be heard and for a business to acknowledge them and that a mistake was made.
  • There is a huge correlation between how long it takes the brand to apologise and express empathy and the amount that the customer wants to feel OK.
  • Service is proving it’s case that there is a lot of value, when it comes to customer service, in having a neutral 3rd party that is calm, efficient and collected.
  • The biggest challenge for Service is proving to people that it is not too good to be true.
  • Download their app from iTunes here or try them out via their website here.

About Michael (bio taken from his LinkedIn profile)

Michael SchneiderMichael is the founder & CEO of Los Angeles-based Service (getservice.com). Service is “on demand customer service” and helps consumers resolve issues with businesses, without wasting their time.

Prior to Service, Michael was the co-founder & CEO of Mobile Roadie, one of the world’s most successful mobile app platforms, with clients such as the World Economic Forum, Madonna, the Rolling Stones, the Wynn Las Vegas, Dallas Mavericks, and Harvard University.

Michael also co-founded and served as the CEO of nesting.com, a “Facebook for moms,” founded Fluidesign, an interactive agency, and at the age of 15, founded Video Game Central, selling new and used video games online at the beginning of the internet.

Michael has been active in the Los Angeles tech community, serving on the board of the Young Entrepreneurs Organization, advising the Southern California Entrepreneurship Academy, and speaking regularly at his alma mater – the University of Southern California, where he regularly advises that “grades don’t equal success.”

He has been the recipient of numerous awards including the Los Angeles County SBA Young Entrepreneur of the Year award, one of the “Best Entrepreneurs under 25″ by BusinessWeek, and noted as one of the “Top 20 in their 20’s” by the Los Angeles Business Journal.

Put Service to the test by downloading their free app from the iTunes store here or try them out via their website here.

You can also say Hi to Michael and the folks at Service on Twitter @schneider and @service.

 
 
 
Photo Credit: Thomas Hawk via Compfight cc

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