Customer Service Using Features

If you are a product manager, developer, or designer, you should try to understand that you actually have more to do with customer service than you think. Essentially, you are (partly) responsible for a large part of the customer experience, which is the product.

The limitations of the product and its supporting systems have a lot to do with the customer experience. Can it do this, but not that? Why? This is too complicated. This is so easy, but the product cannot do it. Things like that influence what the customer thinks of the product and subsequently the company.

The amount of customer service inquires almost directly correlates with how easy a product is to use and understand. Simple = few customer service inquires. Complicated = a lot of customer service inquires. Design and implementation has a lot to do with controlling that relationship.

In fairness to product managers, designers, creators, etc., they are often limited by what the company wants to give them. It may be limited by the team having a limited budget (and therefore no resources to develop such features) or by other departments (like shipping operations) not wishing to cooperate.

For example:

I have been doing a lot of online shopping over the last week or so. I’ve chosen a few places to get a majority of holiday gifts for friends, family, clients, and co-workers at and I’ve further tweaked my buying decisions based on how convenient the web site is to use and get what I need done. Here is how some of the stores stacked up:

  • Macy’s. I had intended to buy a majority of my gifts at Macy’s web site, but most of them were sold out (and not available until January) when I went to look earlier this weekend.
  • Amazon. The classic web superstore (that I use rather often) has a wide selection of a lot of items, but most of items I wanted to purchase as holiday gifts were not stocked and sold by Amazon, but their partners (which eliminated my free three day shipping, one of my perks as a “Prime” customer).
  • Starbucks. Starbucks is especially popular and a lot of people like their products, but their web site is probably one of the least flexible I have seen when it comes to buying holiday gifts. They only let you ship to one address, they have minimum orders, and a whole bunch of other things that makes the site annoying to shop at.
  • Godiva. Godiva is my new favorite online store. They make the process of shipping to multiple addresses very simple, you can buy cards to insert into packages, their payment options are flexible, and so on. The site is easy to shop at, they have a wide selection of products, and do everything you need to. Plus, they seem to have 24/7 service. Not too shabby.

See what the difference is? I am sure Starbucks has the technical capability to add the features that Godiva has, but they don’t want to. Maybe it isn’t profitable for them to do it or they don’t realize customers are unhappy.

So today’s questions to ask yourself and your customers are:

  • Does our product (web site or whatever) offer you the features you need?
  • If not, what can we do to make it so it meets your needs?

Your customers will appreciate you asking and they will likely provide some interesting suggestions and insight.

One Response to “Customer Service Using Features”

  1. Service Untitled » Continental Makes It Easy - customer service and customer service experience blog said:

    Aug 01, 08 at 2:14 pm

    […] do this (I’m sure some do), but it does make things easier.  It’s a typical example of customer service using features. And it sure can make a difference. It is just a matter of thinking of the little things that can […]