The outage was so widespread, than many compared it to that of 2007. To refresh your memory, this is what happened as reported by customers back then.
We discussed how integrating all customer touch points lets you deliver good service and provide an experience worth talking about and sharing.
More and more regular people get to recommend one provider over another to their networks, which is why understanding what triggers influence has become such a popular topic lately.
While in the past it took sometimes a decade for viable competitors to a business to emerge, thanks in part to technology and the digital medium driving costs down, you're constantly watching your back today.
If you have a product or service people want — and talk about — others just like yours, only with a different tagline and apparent "secret sauce" sprout like mushrooms. Yes, sometimes in the shade of your business model, exploiting a flaw or a disconnect.
And you don't necessarily get your fair share of the market, either. Make a big mistake on reliability or features, and your base is gone — especially when you're not well established and entrenched yet, and another company makes it easy for people to switch.
Which is why integration between marketing and customer service is key.
Customer service is the new marketing
In many ways this holds even truer than when we first observed that a few years ago. Being able to deliver satisfying support in public, something that was a bit hard to pull off for Skype only two years ago, is important to a brand's marketing.
About a week ago, many of you agreed that all the good will in customer conversations gets wiped out by aggressive marketing tactics. The two are connected, and if your company is siloed in those functions, you are at a disadvantage over businesses that are integrated.
There is something new on the service end as well. Many established companies are looking at the direct to buyer model as their growth opportunity. Buyers are not in funnels anymore, and they don't buy alone, either.
I'd like to introduce the concept of Service Level Agreements (SLAs) as a tool for this new era of buyer consideration. In this era, the likelihood of a second purchase determines whether you have a customer base, commerce as repeat business, or a vulnerable collection of uncommitted first time purchasers.
What are Service Level Agreements?
Service Level Agreements (SLAs) have been in the language of business to business providers for years. As the term indicates, they define the levels of service a buyer agrees to receive. Note the language, because it defines expectations you accept. From the entry (emphasis mine):
The SLA records a common understanding about services, priorities, responsibilities, guarantees, and warranties. Each area of service scope should have the "level of service" defined. The SLA may specify the levels of availability, serviceability, performance, operation, or other attributes of the service, such as billing. The "level of service" can also be specified as "target" and "minimum," which allows customers to be informed what to expect (the minimum), whilst providing a measurable (average) target value that shows the level of organization performance. In some contracts, penalties may be agreed upon in the case of non-compliance of the SLA (but see "internal" customers below). It is important to note that the "agreement" relates to the services the customer receives, and not how the service provider delivers that service.
SLAs address also performance measurement and customer duties, along with warranties, disaster recovery, and agreement termination.
There are different kinds of agreements that could suit for example small business owners, associations and organized buyers groups and consortiums. Think for example about the emerging trend of social buying or collaborative consumption. Could there be a group SLA for those?
I've long maintained that everything a business does is marketing, including its contracts. It looks like it's going to be especially its contracts and agreements moving forward. What buyers actually get. As customers we should get busy reading what we agree to. As service providers, we can start looking at how SLAs are part of our marketing.