“Comics Serve True” for Netflix as a Personalised Touch Goes Viral in Hours

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Mark King, SVP Europe and AfricaTerrible anagram aside in this blog’s title, recently we all saw humour win many consumer hearts by a customer service employee at Netflix. This rather brilliant story caught my eye and re-enforced my faith in the front liners – the wonderful staff behind the telephone line or computer screen.

Netflix is a company that has experienced remarkable growth in the last few years by being among the first to offer Internet-based film and TV streaming services (that’s not even counting its production arm.) After its inception in 1997 as a subscription-based DVD rental outfit, it now has such a portfolio that the demands on its customer service department (and its technical team) have evolved. Needless to say, they have had to adjust and grow, as well as adopt new technologies to support it.

This particular story spread like wildfire over a few days and has been praised by consumers worldwide via social media – not because the query was resolved particularly quickly, but because of the manner in which it was dealt.

Netflix enables users to report technical problems (and in this case it involved a streaming error that caused three seconds of footage in a show to loop) via the website or in-app on smart devices and games consoles. But that reporting function wasn’t working. So the customer took to Netflix’s instant messaging (IM) service to speak directly to an advisor. Though it’s not obvious whether the problem was fixed, the customer in question felt it was such a great experience that they shared it online.

So even though the in-app contact mechanism wasn’t working – and I’m sure I could go on about why this could have been a huge issue – it was the personalised nature of the way the query was resolved that stood out. Despite its size and growth, Netflix understands its market; the lifestyles and cultural references and geo-demographics of whom it sells to. Deploying IM technology isn’t new, but it’s not often used well. Some of the best customer service operations are using it as a complimentary tool that can take interactions to a new level, enabling convenience for the customer and adding another layer to the conversation that may otherwise be handled on another channel.

Personalisation and genuinely understanding who you are serving is something that is often lost when companies grow and eyes are on profits and global expansion. Where poor planning and forecasting for workforce management can mean fast growth firms – particularly those in the tech space – being overwhelmed and not flexing with the increase in inbound and outbound contact.

In the Netflix example, the obvious issues weren’t detrimental, but the comic timing and charm of the advisor in question was used so well that the customer was happy anyway. Firms need to follow this example and identify how their front line people set themselves apart and how their personalities can be used – along with an omni-channel approach and appropriate supporting technology – to set the experience apart from the rest.

I’m giving Netflix’s customer service a 4-star rating – get the technology right and I’ll add it to my watch list to review again!

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