We love Tesla! We have friends who work there. We have written about their products. And we have nothing but admiration for Elon Musk, our go-to favorite entrepreneur. For us, Tesla is a shining beacon for a practical solution to the world-wide climate problem. They are showing us a way we can save money and save the environment – the only way we believe it can happen.
So, imagine our surprise when we heard back from a friend who was building an off-the-grid home that Tesla did not return his calls and that he could find no one to talk to about his potential purchase of multiple “Power Wall” energy storage batteries. It’s bad enough when you already bought something and can’t find a person to talk to when you have a problem. But what about when you are trying to hand them money?
How does this happen? We think it’s because of a type of hubris companies can get when they are the only game in town, way out in front of the pack, or so popular that they figure they don’t need to give personalized attention in real time. With the technology revolution, there seems to be a tendency to scrap all things “old.” You see this everywhere. Now-a-days, companies, especially high-tech companies, expect you to do everything on line including complaining, asking for assistance, and even looking to buy.
Sure, it makes it easier for the company. There’s no urgency. They can get around to your query when they feel like it. And their employees don’t require many social or real time communication skills. They can hire from an ever-expanding pool of folks who may lack those talents.
Their only problem is that they lose sales to companies who do provide real-time customer service. Potential customers judge the company’s service support for the product they want to buy based on the real-time access to information they require before they buy!
We can hear it already, “It’s all right there on the site. We’ve got calculators and frequently asked questions. All you have to do is use them!” We translate this to read, “We don’t want your money if you require a real human being to answer your questions.” Or worse, “We don’t want to talk to you!”
Interestingly, our friend who was frustrated by the customer service at Tesla was able to get through to a real person at a competing company who answered all his questions and sold him a solar system with a compatible battery wall energy storage unit. That company obviously saw the classic value in personalized attention with real-time voice communication. We were disappointed that our friend didn’t buy from our favorite company, but we understand his thinking.
We wish every company would realize that prospects have a need to prove to themselves that they are making the right decision for the long term. Your customer’s experience starts long before they are even your customer. It starts when they are your prospect.
There are certain things that can’t be automated. For example, instilling the feeling of confidence, care, and security that your prospect needs to make the decision to buy a major product from you. Even the most revolutionary company in the world must help prospects justify the purchase of high-priced products by providing them an opportunity to talk with a real person.
We think personalized attention in real time is not an old-fashioned, outmoded idea. We think it’s a classic idea whose value to the bottom line is timeless. Hopefully our favorite company will improve its reputation for customer service.
Who Are We.
Having built and sold a bestselling national brand, we appreciate the value of brands and everything it takes to make them successful. Companies are valued by their brand equity. Achieving and maximizing brand equity requires tremendous respect for all your customers, from your wholesaler to your end user.
Starting in our laundry room with no money and no knowledge of the industry, we built the famous Barefoot Wine brand. We learned a lot they don’t teach in school and much of it the hard way. Although our success was in consumer products, our real world experience will be helpful to anyone looking for information and advice about brands.
We have written the New York Times Bestselling Business Book, The Barefoot Spirit: How Hardship, Hustle and Heart Built America’s #1 Wine Brand, which chronicles the history of the famous brand from its inception through its acquisition. Our book is now required reading in schools of entrepreneurship across the country. We hope this book will provide inspiration and encouragement for all those contemplating starting a brand or wanting to improve their existing brand.
Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey
-Barefoot Wine Founders