What if Customer Service were on the Customer's side?

Zappos.com is highly praised (and valued) for their incredible customer service. WePay is trying to build a PayPal competitor based almost entirely on the notion that better customer service is a compelling feature. How do these companies accomplish excellent customer service? Zappos.com has built a call center with a fun environment and has given their Customer Service Representatives (CSRs) real power to help the customers. WePay has made it core to their entire company philosophy. (That was their CSR’s answer to me when I asked why I should switch from PayPal to WePay. It worked.)

Which begs the questions: what if all CSRs were on the customer’s side? What if instead of representing the company to the customer, they represented the customer to the company. What if the CSR was there to fight for you, tooth and nail? Even if you were wrong? How much better of an experience would that create for you as a customer? Just the knowledge that when in doubt, you have someone fighting for you. How much brand loyalty would that build? As American Express has shown, always being on the customer’s side is something people are willing to pay for.

More interesting are the side effects this would have on other areas of the business. It would be worlds easier for the product development team to prioritize features and bug-fixes if they had CSRs in their own company breaking down their doors, representing the customer and telling the engineers “this is what you need to work on.” Making the CSR the customer’s representative puts a proxy for your customer right inside your walls. If your goal is to build something your customers want, why wouldn’t you want their representative working with you, every day?

All I’m talking about is a change in attitude, a change in perspective. But what a dramatic difference it could make to your marketing, customer service, and product development.

I’m not the first one to realize this system is broken: Paul Graham wants to fund a buffer against bad customer service.