Do No Harm.
This is a credo that people entrusted with our health and well-being are taught from the moment they set foot in medical school, and of course for most of us (I hope), it’s how we live our lives. Shouldn’t this apply also to the products and services we buy?
My friend and fellow voice over talent Kara Edwards
of her experience buying a telephone for her studio. The phone was hermetically sealed in the thick plastic packaging that we all know and hate, and thus took an inordinately long time to open. When it was finally in place she discovered it was of such poor quality as to be unusable. Kara drew compelling analogies between this type of customer service and voice over services, and how quickly we would lose business if we made our offerings as difficult to get to (cluttered websites, poor quality audio) as did the company that made her telephone.
I thought of Kara’s essay this morning while I was wrestling with the packaging around a Gillette “Venus” razor
. It didn’t take terribly long to open it with the help of a pair of scissors, and the gash to my finger from the sharp edge of the cut plastic was the work of an instant. Stopping the blood and mopping it up took longer. My motivation for buying this product was somewhat different from Kara’s. I needed the item AND I had already tried it and knew I liked it. So even though I saw it was in the hated plastic bubble, I was willing to put up with it in order to get at the item I wanted. Thing is, I actually bought this item about 3 years ago to put in my travel bag, since I already had one of these razors at home and this would be one less thing to remember to pack. Somehow I hadn’t gotten around to putting it in the travel bag and the reason I finally opened it was that I had gone to the store to buy blade replacements and was so appalled at the price (well over $8 for 4 of them) that I decided to use what I had in that unopened package. O innocence! Thou art vanished on a summer breeze! Vanished actually with the cries of pain and oaths uttered in this unnatural struggle with modern packaging.
Procter & Gamble is committing a variety of sins with this product:Inaccessibility
. They are, as Kara pointed out in the case of her phone, making it difficult for the customer to access the product, just as if I told a voiceover client, I can’t email this file to you but I’ll put it on a CD and mail it and you’ll have it in 4 days.Hazardousness
. The product packaging had the potential to harm the customer, which it fulfilled in this case, leaving me with a cut that continues to inconvenience as I now can’t type with that finger (warning: graphic images ahead).
. The packaging is made of plastic, which doesn’t decompose, and is furthermore a petroleum product made from foreign oil - I don’t think I need to rehearse the arguments against that here.Mind games
. Inside the packaging the razor is lying in state in a hard plastic coffin-like object, which has no discernible purpose, except perhaps to create the illusion of enhanced value. Funeral directors would like us to believe that our love for the deceased is measured by the amount of money we spend on a coffin, and a simple pine box reflects less love than a polished, satin-lined mahogany number. P&G may be trying to play a similar mind game here. I for one would be delighted to pay for a cellophane sleeve for my razor, with a notch in one side so I could easily tear it open (a real notch, not just a black line that says “tear here” when in fact you will need scissors to get it open).
Good and accessible products, service and packaging are what every customer wants and deserves. Every salesperson and company executive and marketing director is also somebody’s customer. Why are there so many disconnects out there? Why are people like Kara and me and so many of my voice over colleagues so aware of the basic rules of customer service while retail stores are so full of products that scream, “we don’t care about you”? Most likely it’s this: there is nobody between us voice talent and our customers (except possibly a talent agent, but there frequently isn’t these days). If we provide poor service, there is very little reason for the customer to avoid telling us about it. They will request or demand a replacement (a better recording), and if we can’t deliver a satisfactory product the client can withhold payment and they certainly won’t engage us again. Our poor service would immediately translate into loss of income. Not so with a large company like Procter & Gamble, with so many levels of administration; there are just too many potential ears that will be turned deafly from customer complaints. And how many customers take the time to make the complaints? From a very early age I’ve been writing letters to companies and politicians when I’m concerned or displeased (and also when pleased), but how many people do it?
So, gentle reader, if you are a business owner such as a professional voice talent, you know what customer service
means. You are probably also rightly outraged when you don’t get the kind of customer service and product quality that you are accustomed to providing. Do something about it. Write a letter. Vote with your wallet. It’s easier for us now than ever before because most companies have a web presence and a "Contact Us" link with a form for communicating with customer service. I’m not quite sure how you approach the Chinese companies who are putting melamine in pet food or antifreeze in cough syrup as a cheap substitute for sweetener
, but I think that's one for our legislators. Write to them. Make it a habit. Oh, and don’t forget to write when you’re satisfied too. Everybody likes that.
Make the world a better place. You have the power.
Labels: customer service, voice-over