Customer service in technology companies often does not meet expectations. Complaints abound about mobile phone services, software delivery, network failure, broadband access and others. The list is long and extensive. Why?

According to Managed hosting specialist Rackspace it is because technology companies specialise on technology and do not focus on customer service. Hence the number of telephone call centre menus where on the fourth attempt a customer may actually get to speak to a real person. Or the frustration involved in obtaining a real solution to a problem without having to speak or understand computer jargon. It is a self-generating problem driven by the technologists themselves.
The solution, according to Rackspace spokesman for the South African market, Geoff Dowell, is to change the culture of the business to focus on customer service and then to measure your success.
“This is something that we embarked upon at Rackspace some years ago. Since then we have won awards in customer service excellence and been rated as the best place to work.  Two metrics are vital to the Rackspace philosophy of ‘Fanatical Support’.The first metric measures the engagement of our Rackers (staff) while the second measures the engagement of our customers. Our Rackers deliver  ‘Fanatical Support’ and we measure it by applying the acclaimed ‘Ultimate Question’ method produced by loyalty expert Fred Reichheld.”
Dowell adds that the customer research uses only two questions: “How likely are you to recommend Rackspace to a friend or colleague?” (scale 0-10) and “What improvements could we make that would make you more likely to recommend us?”.
The first question provides an international benchmark score that allows Rackspace to compare itself over time internally as well as against other service organisations. The second question allows individual attention to be paid to those customers who are less enamoured with Rackspace services so that the problems can be rectified and issues addressed.
“At the same time, comments from customers are aggregated and passed on to our dedicated service improvement team. Of equal importance is the research we conduct into our ‘Racker engagement’. Only motivated staff can deliver fanatical support to our customer base and by measuring their engagement and acting on their suggestions we believe we can deliver world-beating customer service.
“Our objective for the South African operation is to achieve the highest customer satisfaction and recommendation rates among the Rackspace global operations.  With recommendations running at 92%, this is a serious challenge.”
Customers in South Africa that have switched from local managed hosting service providers invariably find the Rackspace experience markedly different. Hilton Tarrant, project manager of financial news service Moneyweb comments on Rackspace’s hosting of its Mineweb mining industry site: “The arrangements now in place are less costly and offer much greater value for money. In fact, the Rackspace solution is simply incomparable to what existed before.”
Shannon Duffin, Business Development Manager at alternative telecommunications service provider Switch Telecom, says the company approached a number of hosting service providers. “It soon became apparent that the Rackspace service is on a different level, making the selection decision very easy. It has been smooth sailing all the way.”
Dowell says it is easy for competitors to copy the services and most of the technology, but impossible to replicate the Rackspace culture based on passionate people dedicated to providing ‘fanatical’ support.
“The Rackspace culture in customer service has driven the company’s 80% growth rate and we’re looking to emulate this in South Africa.”
For South African technology companies to be competitive on a world wide basis it is time to re-focus on customer service and the customer experience, adds Dowell. “Internationally this is the next competitive battleground. To benchmark your own operations find out how many of your customers would recommend your business to their friends or colleagues.”