Spoiler Alert: Time-shifted Content Will Change Product Sales and Service Strategies
I'm currently six episodes into NetFlix's House of Cards, although by the time you read this, I'll probably have finished the show. House of Cards is notable, not only because it's the first "TV" series produced by NetFlix, but also because of the way NetFlix chose to distribute it—all at once. There's been significant debate on whether this was a wise move on NetFlix's part. On one hand, viewers don't have to wait to see what happens and can watch the show at their own pace. On the other hand, NetFlix is losing out on the potential for long-term publicity as people discuss each episode online. Imagine, for instance, if ABC's Lost had been released all at once. It's unlikely the show would have been nearly as successful.
NetFlix has been burned by marketing missteps over the past couple years, so my guess is that they weighed this decision carefully. Evidently, the ongoing publicity and cultural conversation about the show was worth sacrificing to enable their viewers to watch the show at their own pace. This is remarkable because it shows just how important it is to let customers access content when they want it.
It barely deserves mentioning that today's consumers are impatient--that point has been made many times before. We live in an on-demand environment, and if a potential customer can't get an answer "now" you've likely lost them. However, there are two seemingly contradictory solutions to this problem. One solution is embracing the immediacy of the Internet by using online chat and Twitter; the other is to take advantage of the archived nature of the Internet so your content can be found easily over the long term.
Real-time Sales & Service
Many companies offer online chat and respond via Twitter to their customers. It's clear when you use these services as a customer that they're only meant to be a "first round" and you're quickly redirected to other channels if your questions require any substantive expertise. Even if the end result is still a conversation by phone, the companies that offer real-time action project an image of being more responsive. Companies that use these services also probably eliminate a lot of their call volume by handling easy questions online. And, unlike phone calls, it's possible for one service or sales agent to handle multiple customers at the same time.
Time-shifted Sales & Service
Questions answered online in the proper venues will be archived and searchable, enabling companies to perform time-shifted sales and service. By making sure the answers to questions and troubleshooting techniques are properly organized and archived online, you can help not only the people looking for that answer now, but also people looking for that answer many years in the future. A well-organized customer service forum can become a timeless resource for anyone searching for information.
The NetFlix business model has advantages over those that preceded it. It has the immediacy of television, because you don't have to drive someplace to get the content. At the same time, it has the broad selection of a video store, so you never have to worry that there's "nothing on right now."
By structuring your marketing and customer service with this kind of modern time-shifting in mind, it's possible to be both immediate and timeless at the same time. Marketers just need to be sure that they have the proper systems in place so they don't miss out on this opportunity.
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