Thursday, August 16, 2007

Hear My Voice

Today's New York Times features the article "At Netflix, Victory for Voices Over Keystrokes". It discusses how the online movie rental business is trying a new tack (actually, they're returning to an old tack) vis a vis customer service: the telephone. The company has de-emphasized its email address on its website, and has heightened the presence of a toll-free number that is available 24/7. In addition, the call center is located just outside of Portland, OR, and not in India or Singapore.

I find this interesting on a few levels. Netflix believes, in the face of increased competition from Blockbuster's new online service, that they should promote the actual voices of friendly customer service reps as a distinguishing characteristic not found at Blockbuster. This kind of emphasis is something that the business literature has recommended to small businesses in the face of big-box competition, but Netflix still is the market leader in this industry.

So - does locating the call center in Portland tap into an American desire to hear American voices? Is there a Bangalore backlash? Will running the center in the U.S., where the company is paying above-average wages for the industry, eventually hurt Netflix, or help them? These are likely the kinds of customer-service questions that are discussed in board & staff meetings across the country, and I'm very curious to see where it leads.

In the mean time, I'm off to update my queue . . .

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