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Stuart Browne 13-Oct-2022 09:32:05 5 min read

Transformation as a Service - the blind leading the blind...?

Today I’m in our offices.

In the UK we’re still pretty restricted on travel and most workers who don’t get their hands dirty are working from home.

But I’ve popped in to pick up actual mail and check the office hasn’t been ransacked.

It hasn't.

On my 3 mile drive in this morning there was hardly any traffic -  literally a few cars and vans, and a man on a bike with a suitcase. Before you ask, I didn't ask.

But I arrived at the office later than I'd hoped.

Customer churn

Right at the start of lockdown, I became a churn statistic with my longest standing subscription service.

Sky TV? Nope.

Netflix?  Nope.

Some SaaS Software solution? Nope.

Warrington Wolves Season Ticket Membership? Nope. 

As if I’d cancel that.

Ever.

My longest standard subscription was with Vision Express. 

I’d been buying my contact lenses there for 20+ years.  The staff were friendly and helpful, they knew me by my first name, and remembered the 'e' on my surname - which counts for a lot with me.

They even watched my kids growing up into little adults.

“Awww hasn’t she grown up, I remember her when she was in her pram…"

But despite these pleasantries, when Covid hit and their stores closed, what remained of their under-digitised customer service really sucked.

Trapped in a no man’s land of - need an eye test - store closed - can’t post out new contact lenses (that I’d already paid for in advance) without an eye test - my loyalty banjo snapped.

F**k you and your contact lenses. I’ll buy them online. They’ll be cheaper.

They'd nearly blown it 4 years earlier when they'd swapped my brand of perfectly good multi-focal lenses for a brand that felt like putting discs of P80 sandpaper under my eyelids. 

A visit to store confirmed that their customer service statement that my fave brand had been "discontinued" was actually a euphemism for "we make more profit on the uncomfortable lenses so have made your old ones special order only".

But I gave the nice lady in store the benefit of the doubt when she blamed "Head Office".

The very same Head Office that had just ticked a cancel box on a grey screen somewhere to confirm me churning as a customer - but hasn’t stopped me receiving text messages yet.

How digital.

Anyway, to cut a long story comparatively shorter than it could be, I moved to an online contact lens store instead.

Same lenses. Cheaper. 

Boom.

The only downside - I have to order them and remember when to order more.

For 8 months things have been going well - my borderline blindness mole-vision has been cured and I don’t have to wear jam jar lenses in Oakley frames when I go outdoors. 

My long-sighted prescription (+6.5 if you’re interested) means that my glasses are so powerful that they magnify my eyes to 3x their actual size. 

Children cry and dogs bark when they catch my owly gaze.

It’s horrific.

I need my lenses for the safety of the community more than anything.

Then, in January, my manual re-ordering process kicked in when I hit my safety stock level of 2 boxes. 

Being the same hyper-powerful prescription in both eyes makes ordering easier than a split prescription. So, I ventured online and filled my virtual basket with 8 boxes.

At checkout I was excited to be offered a discount in return for a chance to opt-in to their primitive MRP system that replenished my lenses every 3 months. 

Tick. Credit Card. 

Done.

The long thin box arrived 2 days later and was stored safely in the cupboard as I slowly burned through my over-safe safety stock.

Then, this morning I realised that I was down to a single contact lens - I must have split or dropped one leaving me with an odd number in the box.

I put it into my eye and scrabbled to retrieve the box as I blinked furiously.

Nice touch - a pen and a packet of Love Hearts in the box. I pocketed the pen for chewing later and left the sweets on Sophie’s bedside table.

Romantic eh? 

I prized a lens from the packet and jammed it into my sleepy eye.

WTF?

I’m blind.

Literally nothing out of my left eye other than blurry shadows.

Worse than my actual vision - which is going some.

Peering through one good eye, I peered at the prescription on the box and it suddenly dawned on me that I’d accidentally selected -6.00 instead of +6.00* for my prescription.

*They don't make multi-focals in +6.50 - I'm pushing the human-mole envelope.

I'd had a literal moment of myopia at the checkout.

Fortunately, I have enough spare lenses in laptop bags, coat pockets and car glove boxes to last another week.

And that’s why I was late to the office today.

Some thoughts in 20/20 hindsight from the day...

  1. How many businesses have churned long-standing subscription customers through a lack of modern digital customer service and historical over-reliance on ’nice people’ in bricks and mortar stores?
  2. When you disinter-mediate your business model and put the customer in charge, the way you deal with their mistakes is as important as how you used to deal with your own mistakes - the customer has never been more ‘always right.'
  3. A subscription business model needs always-on, connected customer service. This means that customer service is now a marketing function - an investment and not an overhead.
  4. As enterprise software moves towards subscription, just how important will customer service become to retention, lifetime value, cost to serve, and profitability. 

Hubspot gets this.

SAP doesn’t. Yet.

Which is troubling as SAP has just apparently launched Business Transformation as a Service with their RISE offering. 

I think this might prove to be more myopic than they can begin to imagine.

Partly because Business Transformation isn't a software company's job - and can't really be done as a 'service'.

But mostly because companies who have a long standing culture of licence-led revenue struggle to make the transition to service-led satisfaction.

They have to swap their own dopamine hit from the sales bell for their customer's dopamine hit of satisfaction.

Which is hard to see.

 

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Stuart Browne

Stuart has held leadership roles in the SAP ecosystem over an 18 year period, spanning consultancy, delivery management, practice development, sales, marketing and analyst relations. With an eclectic mix of skills and one of the largest SAP networks in the UK, Stuart has established a formidable reputation that has enabled Resulting to guide SAP customers through complex challenges.