The idea that the best kind of government service is no service at all is not a new one.  Government is necessarily part of the service economy, but much of it destined never to be part of the experience economy.  The best kind of tax return is the one you don’t have to fill in; the best way to complain that your rubbish hasn’t been collected is never to have to because it always is.

It’s easy to think that the opposite is true for commercial service providers, that more contact is always a good thing, a contributor to that elusive concept, the customer relationship.  If marketing is conversation, somebody needs to be talking.  But of course a moment’s self-reflection shows that it isn’t always so (or at least not in a simplistic way):

Customers don’t want to call their bank or email their online retailer if something’s confusing or if there’s an error–instead, everything should work perfectly in the first place.

That line comes from an interview with Bill Price, one of the authors of The Best Service is No Service. The seven principles he advocates are challenging individually, but much more so in combination:

  1. Eliminate dumb or avoidable contacts to free up capacity and slash costs.
  2. Build self-service that works to free up even more capacity and cut costs even more.
  3. Find ways to be proactive rather than reactive because it is often cheaper than waiting.
  4. Engage the real “owners” of customer problems to work with the customer service team to fix the problems
  5. Make it really easy to contact your business.
  6. Use the contacts you get to listen closely to the customer, and act upon WOCAS (What Our Customers Are Saying)
  7. Fix reporting metrics, processes, and the staffing side to deliver great experiences for customer contacts.

That’s powerful stuff – and perhaps still more so given how clearly it resonates with lean-based customer service:  the questions are from a slightly different starting point, but the answers are very clearly aligned. 

So I am going to buy the book.  Without, of course, any contact with the seller, and in the confident expectation that nothing will go wrong with its delivery.