We started out as a business that repairs laptop screens. We then started selling screens to people who wanted to repair the laptops themselves. So people think of us as a company that sells and repairs laptop screens.
This description is now evolving. There are many companies that sell and repair laptop screens. Our goal is to educate the customer on how to do it themselves and get the right screen as fast as possible to them at a reasonable cost with the right tools. So our innovation strategy is almost entirely focused on education and logistics, i.e. how can we inform the customer better on how to fix the laptop and how can we get the right screen to them ASAP.
Make no mistake about it that if I didn’t think that spending time writing the blog would not improve the bottom line, I wouldn’t do it.
On the front page of the website, we ask the customer for the email address without making any promises in return. In order for the customer to trust us with this information, the customer has to believe that this business and website are credible and that their information will not be abused. This is where the blog comes in. It’s a peek behind the curtains on how we think about customer service and the things we do to respond to customers faster and more efficiently. Thus the reasoning goes if the customer knows more about us, the more willing she will be to do business with us.
What often happens with websites and business in general is that in order to serve a small minority of customers, the vast majority is inconvenienced.
Case and point: On our online inquiry form about 5% of customers enter their email wrong. The standard solution for this is to ask the customer to enter email twice on the form to make sure it’s right. The problem with this is that the 95% of customers who enter the email correctly have to spend extra 5 seconds re-entering it. We at Screen Surgeons choose to provide faster service to the 95% and lose the 5% who enter an incorrect email address. There are many examples of this throughout the sales and fulfillment cycle. At each stage we strive to provide better and faster service to the majority at the expense of the minority. Good business? Not sure, but this is our choice.
We aim to provide better customer service through data. What this means we look at the questions, problems and concerns that customers have had in the past, to find patterns in these, and using insights from these patterns to provide better service in the future. The big challenge with this is that customers do not say the same words when describing the same problem.
This is the challenge of organizing and categorizing unwieldy data. The fact that we have a database of 10s of thousands of inquiries helps and one small insight recently produced a major breakthrough. In the inquiry form on the front page we have a field called “description of problem”. Until recently, every person was putting in some different combination of words to describe a cracked laptop screen. From this, on a whim, I decided to put “cracked screen” in the field ahead of time.
What then happened was that ~80% of inquiries did not change this. So then all I needed to know was the laptop model number to send the email back with the appropriate response. This allowed for computer generated responses for about 30% of all inquiries which gave the customer the info needed to make a decision in 30 seconds instead of 1 hour. This is a large improvement in quality of customer service.
We hope learn more from and better organize unwieldy data based on customer requests to have more similar breakthroughs in the future.
Keeping up with business literature over the last 20 years I’ve noticed a distinct difference between successful companies and the people behind them on Wall Street and in Silicon Valley. When someone goes to Wall Street with a new idea it usually has to do with how to make more money. In Silicon Valley, the primary motivation is how to do something better. The best people in Silicon Valley are compensated well of course, but this is not their primary motivation.
Screen Surgeons follows the Silicon Valley approach in trying to do things a little better in a narrow segment of the information technology industry.
When Google first started the most unusual thing about the Google home page was the simplicity. Just a search box, that’s it. Google’s rivals Yahoo, Netscape etc. had very cluttered home pages. The back end of Google however was more complex and sophisticated than it’s rivals, and produced better search results.
How this rivalry turned out is well known. No one says “Netscape it” or “Yahoo it”!
We try to follow the same philosophy. We try to keep the user interface as simple as possible with only the essential elements. On our online store we only list the most popular screens so that the customer can find what she needs as quickly as possible. For our information forms we ask for the minimum information with which we can still direct the customer to the right product or service. The response emails we send out have been edited over and over to provide only the necessary info in as few words as possible.
What happens in the back end is a different story. Years of interacting with customers and doing market research have been implemented into an automated inquiry response system with 100s of rules which allows the most common types of inquiries to be answered instantaneously while the more unique inquiries are routed to humans with expertise. Our goal is to take the utmost advantage of emerging technologies to make it as simple as possible for the customer to do business with us and have their needs met.
Recently I was reading a business article and came across a phrase “long term greedy”. I like this phrase because to me it says that I’m willing to sacrifice short term profit to establish a long term relationship with customers and to produce a larger overall profit in the end. Screen Surgeons is long term greedy.
Our goal is to continually improve the offer we make to the customer. So we can provide a better service for screens and screen replacement today than 6 months ago. Here’s the improvements:
- We answer inquiries faster
- Our catalog pages have more information
- Our screen model accuracy has improved
- We have a smaller breakage rate during shipping
- We offer tool kits along with the screens
Having said this, there will undoubtedly be improvements 6 months from now. So if you wait, you will probably get a better deal from us.
Recently I’ve been looking to upgrade the software for the Screen Surgeons email inquiry system. I evaluated software from several different providers including software for sales professionals and for technical support. I finally chose a cloud based solution from ZenDesk. This is the software many internet companies use to manage technical support inquiries for their products and services.
After thinking about the choice and the whole process of customers engaging with Screen Surgeons, I realized that it’s not a sales process we engage in (we don’t try to sell in the traditional sense) it’s a help process (we answer customer’s questions and propose a solution that we think will fit the customer’s needs). There’s no pressure, convincing or persuasion just informing. So the type of software we chose reflects our approach on how to interact with the customer. Give this, I believe what is now called sales will no longer exist in the near future.
Not long ago, I recently asked one of my trusted screen suppliers to help me find tool kits to sell to customers along with the screens. He obliged, and I started buying tool kits from him along with the screens. All was going until the factory that made the tools had a a problem with the tool die and could no longer supply the tools. My supply chain was interrupted and my screen vendor could not find an alternative. When I tried to tell him that I have a real problem on my hands, he came back that he was just doing me a favor providing the tools and wasn’t really making any money on the tool sales anyway.
There’s a large pitfall in that thinking. When you’re providing product to a customer every month, it is your responsibility to keep the product coming no matter what or your customer gets into trouble. So please don’t do your customers any favors when supplying them. Make a reasonable profit and just make sure it’s a quality product with no interruptions. Otherwise, just politely say no.