I bought a brand new, high end laptop from Dell in Jan, 09. But we were never meant to be together for long. Our relationship ended when some burglar stole it just a few weeks back. When i realized that my laptop was stolen, I called the customer support right away hoping they might help me as it came with 2 yr “theft protection” provided by a third party vendor – Lojackforlaptops. The customer support rep was polite, sympathized with me and asked me a bunch of questions. She then marked the laptop as stolen in their system. Since I had theft protection, I asked her if I will get any refund or credit. She pointed me to the Lojackforlaptops as the theft protection was from that company. Now, I call Lojackforlaptops and a different story unfolds. I was on hold for over 30 mins before anyone answered my call and the rep who answered my call was not helpful and cooperative. She said, all that service does is that it monitors if the stolen system goes online and then informs the police. She wouldn’t refund any money for the service or the laptop and wouldn’t even listen to me with patient ears.
On the other hand, the dell customer rep, called me every morning for next 3 days to help me with this situation. She refunded some money related to warranty and even called Lojackforlaptops on my behalf to see if they would help. But it was all about the fine print. Lojackforlaptops’ “theft protection” is actually “after-theft monitoring”.
I was impressed that dell has a policy to reach out to its customers and do whatever they can to help them out. This was my first ever purchase from Dell. This experience with dell has been wonderful and I look forward to do business with them for many years to come and would even recommendthem to my friends and colleagues. On the other hand, whenever, I’ll hear “theft protection by lojackforlaptops”, I’d be VERY skeptical and would rather look for another vendor for actual “theft protection”.
Very often companies spend lot of time and money on the product, marketing and creating deals with suppliers (like lowjackforlaptops did with dell) but pay very little attention to training their customer service reps. Customer Service mostly gets call if (a) a potential customer wants to inquire about a product / service or (b) if the existing customer has a “problem” (forgot password, something is not working, theft etc.). Inadequate training for prior case means losing a potential customer and loss of potential income, whereas inadequate training to address grievances could mean loss of established income stream and loss of customer loyalty.
I always wondered whether a “business” (corporation) can be created that is driven not only to make profit but also driven to ease the world’s inequalities. “Business of business is business” but can a business’ business be to ease the world’s problems and still sustain itself as a profitable business? I recently came across this speech by Bill Gates on World Economic Forum in Davos last January. In his speech, Gates said that many of the world’s biggest problems cannot be fixed by philanthropy, but instead require free-market capitalism—”creative capitalism”—to solve. According to Gates, creative capitalism is “an approach where governments, businesses, and nonprofits work together to stretch the reach of market forces so that more people can make a profit, or gain recognition, doing work that eases the world’s inequities.”
Overall what I gather from his speech is that : You cannot create a profit driven corporation that is in the business of just easing the world’s inequalities. But a profit driven corporation can become a socially responsible corporation by generating ideas and processes within their realm of expertise to solve world’s problems. For example:
A drug company can become creative to provide affordable medicine for most common ailments like malaria, cholera etc. in poorest nations like Sudan, Somalia etc.
A software/hardware company generate ideas to provide affordable laptops to kids in poor nation ($100 laptop)
Soft-drink company generate ideas to provide technology to supply drinkable water to remote areas.
A bank generate ideas to provide loans to people who can’t provide collateral (poorest of the poor) and give them an opportunity to succeed.
A perfect example of a business where the line between the purpose of the business (to make profit) and social responsibility of the business is very narrow, is: Grameen Bank. Muhammad Yunus – a Bangladeshi banker, economist and founder of Grameen Bank, jointly won (with Grameen Bank) the Nobel Peace Prize, “for their efforts to create economic and social development from below. Lasting peace can not be achieved unless large population groups find ways in which to break out of poverty. “[Ref. 1] Now thats some serious “creative capitalism”!!
“Make it simple. Make it memorable. Make it inviting to look at. Make it fun …” – Leo Burnett.
As kid, I use to bring home caterpillars all the time, feed ‘em and turn ‘em into butterflies. I could never imagine that this fun-filled activity could be turned into a business. But a California based company called Insect Lore has been running a successful business doing that since past 30 years. Their product – Live Butterfly Pavilion – sells for $30. It comes with a see-through mesh, 6-10 Painted Lady butterfly larvae with special food and complete instructions to raise the larvae. They have made the product inviting to look at, fun and educational to use and leaves lasting memories. They are not in the business of selling insects, they are in the business of selling experience to the right age group. Now that’s entrepreneurship.