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Pandora Ringtones and Customer Care

Feb 15th, 2013 | By | Category: Nick Kemper's Blog

I’m listening to Edith Piaf right now, unhealthy as I work, dosage and I just came up with this brilliant business idea that I have no idea how to pull off, so I’m throwing it out there for someone to run with. Edith Piaf was a French singer who was popular from the late 1930s to the early 1960s and there is an excellent movie about her, La Vie En Rose, for which Marion Cotillard won an Academy Award. She is stunning in this movie, and my affection for Edith Piaf is partly affection for Marion Cotillard, because there are few videos of Edith Piaf.

Some time back I tried to purchase an Edith Piaf ringtone for my phone. Before I wrecked my Honda (which had a CD player), I would pick up one of my kids and a Piaf CD would be playing. They would say, “Not the French lady again.” Which is at least better than Nuke LaLoosh, who hears Piaf singing through the door to Susan Sarandon’s house in Bull Durham and says, “I know you’re in there. I can hear that Mexican chick singing.”

As I mentioned in a blog recently, our toll-free line is forwarded to a cell phone, which I keep with me as much as possible and hand off to others when I’m indisposed. There aren’t a lot of ringtones available on this low-budget T-mobile cell phone, so something generic starts playing when a customer calls. Now I love our customers and I love it when they call, but the problem is that the brain begins to associate that sound with work, or at least with an interruption of the task at hand. So within about 1.7 workdays, I’m sick of that ringtone. I could change it every day, but my idea is a variable ringtone – it changes every time the phone rings. Of course, if you have pre-sets for certain callers, you could keep those, but for random callers, how about random ringtones?

I think Pandora needs to get involved. Maybe they could somehow link the caller’s musical preferences with the ringtone that plays on your phone. So the phone rings and you think, “Wow, it’s an Adam Ant aficionado – wonder what this’ll be about?”

So if anyone knows anyone at Pandora, can you ask them to get on that?

Just had another thought: what if Pandora is just a consortium of computers that got together and formed a company?

Innovative ideas are really the backbone of business. I read somewhere the other day that immigrants to the U.S. are something like 2.5 times more likely to start a business in the U.S. than a native citizen. So on average, immigrants don’t reduce the average earning power of the average U.S. citizen. In fact, they create jobs by starting more businesses. Maybe it’s the quality of adventurousness that contributed to their move from their native country, and the native citizens that stay behind in Greece or Iceland or Peru are just as complacent as us native Americans (by native American, I mean American citizens, not Native American, as in the people who were here first, of which I am descended from a few – I’m about 10% Native American).

I get calls or emails every week from people pitiching new products or innovations. Some are good and they end up in our catalog, and if they can survive the waiting period necessary for something to catch on, they become part of our standard offerings. Some don’t pan out. Some sound great, and then the infrastructure collapses from the new company they’ve started, usually because they lose funding. Some never return my call or my return email, and you wonder why they tried contacting you in the first place.

As a service provider, your innovation is not likely a product, but rather something intangible you can bring to a customer. With customer service, the tried and true are often the most solid base you can work from, and it’s sad to say it, but honestly caring for the welfare of a customer is a very innovative idea that doesn’t get much attention.

Last month my 18-year-old daughter locked the keys in our mini-van about 30 miles from our house. It was evening when she discovered it, and the parking lot was a little spooky, so my wife did her best to get her taken care of right away. First, she called one company I used to drive for (she didn’t tell them who she was, or who she was married to). Here’s what she got:

“Oh, we can’t get anyone there for at least an hour. There’s no one in the area, and I got to keep someone here for police calls.”

Now, this call receiver didn’t know it was my wife, so she didn’t know that my wife knew what a police call was, but even if she did, who cares about police calls? This is a customer who needed quick service, not excuses. You can imagine the tone of voice that accompanied this excuse: harried, irritated, stressed.

So then my wife called a different company I used to work for. The call receiver knew her, so that influenced the service she got, I’m sure, but nevertheless, here’s what she got: “Okay, let me see what I can do.” She called one of the drivers, who was clear, on the radio, leaving the phone live so that my wife could hear. The driver said he could be there in about 20 minutes. Before the call receiver said anything in return, another driver piped up and asked the first driver if he had his lockout kit with him, because he knew the driver was not driving his assigned truck. The first driver stopped to look, and alas he did not have a lockout kit. So the call receiver, with genuine disappointment in her voice, said to my wife, “Looks like it’ll be about forty-five minutes to an hour for him to get here, get a lockout kit, and get out there.” She probably added an “I’m sorry.”

Now, again, it doesn’t matter who switched trucks or why each driver doesn’t have a lockout kit, because the customer doesn’t need to hear excuses, but the content of the conversations taking place at the second company was not the excuses. No one made an excuse. They talked about what they could do, not what they couldn’t do or why. A third party (the second driver) intervened to help prevent a problem, saving everyone grief.

My wife ended up driving a spare key out to my daughter herself, because she was only 30 minutes away, but who do you think she’ll call next time?

Genuine care is as old as any business principle, but remains as innovative as a Pandora ringtone.

Have a safe and profitable week.

Nick Kemper