My wife and I are back in the states until July 27th getting a chance to see old friends and spending a few days at our home on the Lake in Brown County Indiana. We are also traveling quite a bit and are in Chicago for Fusion 2010 the e-learning conference hosted by Desire2Learn. They are the last significant proprietary Learning Management System competitor to Blackboard now that Angel has been purchased. They have an excellent product and are working hard to add new innovations which educators are requesting. It has been a long and difficult battle for CEO John Baker and his team. They compete with the market giant Blackboard, for customers as well as the courtroom over patents, To Desire2Learn’s credit, they are prospering, and gaining market share by providing an excellent product, and listening to customers, something Blackboard can’t seem to grasp.
Feedback from customers and prospects is always a challenge. No matter the business, be it a department store, restaurant, a mom and pop operation, education facility, government or a multi-national corporation you are taught feedback from customers is essential. However why do so many only pay lip service to listening and responding?
In my opinion for many CEO’s it’s about ego. You have people giving their opinions on your business who know nothing about what it takes to start and successfully grow something. Why should the CEO really pay attention to what they say and do something about their comments? We all know the answer… if you don’t, someone else will eventually get our customers and put us out of business.
I think getting feedback, listening to comments, both good and bad and then acting upon the data is extraordinary difficult. You need to have very thick skin and be willing to adapt. You as the person in charge need be smart and tough enough to work feedback into your overall planning process. It is why customer research, employee feedback, and keeping up to speed on industry trends is so important.
One thing I have learned while living these past 18 months in the Middle East is customer service makes a difference in business growth no matter where you live. In the UAE, customer service and companies gathering consumer feedback and using it to improve their overall operations is far behind what I see in the USA. Perhaps it’s because they are dealing with a very transit population. Many people are living in this part of the world for a short time, meaning 1-3 years. Expectations for superior customer service and business seriously listening to you are low. Maybe its language barriers, or maybe being a stranger in a foreign land makes you more willing to accept lessor standards. Some believe I know even say it’s God’s will for things to happen in a certain way. I can tell you all nationalities rich or poor know the difference between good service and bad service and if they find the product they want from someone else that is similar in price and quality and get better customer service, they will stick with that business and tell their friends. It’s one of those tie breaker items and if you give better service than your competitor the odds of your business succeeding improves.
Going full circle, if Desire2Learn stays on the path of listening to current and potential customers they will continue to gain new clients from the big guy. I just hope they will stay in the marketplace and not sell out to Blackboard like so many others. We need competition and excellence in customer service in all sectors to improve products and encourage innovation.