The future of customer service
June 10, 2011 - You have no doubt noticed that technology is changing the face of customer service. Traditional ways we used to interact with customers, win their trust, and keep them coming back are becoming irrelevant. Here are three of the most significant trends in customer service, and how you can position your business to capitalize rather than capsize in response.
Self serve slavery
What apparently started with self serve gas stations has now become the norm. Customers are now booking their own travel, doing their own banking and even scanning their own groceries at self serve checkouts. There are pluses and minuses for customers, but with the impending labour shortages, companies are likely to continue cutting back on staffing and opt for customers serving themselves.
In most organizations, there is virtually no role remaining for employees who merely act as order takers. When customers have done their homework on Google and have decided exactly what they want, there’s no longer any need for employees to process simple transactions. The place where companies need employees is with more complex purchases. The role of staff here is not to provide customers with lots of information. Information is free on the Internet - and free is perceived as worthless. The role of staff with complex purchases is to analyze the possible options that are available, then interpret which ones might be the most suited to that customer’s unique needs, and finally, advise the customer on up to three options that will solve the customer’s problem. Companies will prosper by replacing five clerks with several self serve checkouts and one trusted advisor.
Driven to distraction
It used to be that good customer service would generate positive word of mouth advertising. That’s no longer the case. Today’s customers are too busy at work, in traffic, running errands, working out, and chauffeuring kids to pay attention to service. When we do have a moment to spare, we are plugged into wireless devices, effectively insulating ourselves from our immediate surroundings. What that means is that good customer service is no longer talked about - it isn’t even noticed! Good customer service has become wallpaper.
In my seminars I suggest to managers, “Don’t be better, be different.” In other words rather than trying to beat your competition, try to change your service so that you become REMARK-able. Fortunately this is easier than most people think. In most cases, this means equipping employees with a few customer communication tips and strategies that get noticed. For example, when a customer asks an employee to do something, the average response might be ‘Sure’ or “Okay.” We suggest that instead employees respond with, “I’ll take care of it”. That response indicates that not only is the employee going to get it done, they’ll do it with care. Your service gets noticed not because you’re working harder, faster, or cheaper, but because you learn to convey greater value.
The amplification of anger
Social media has become the new form of word-of-mouth. Traditionally, if your organization's service wasn't great, you might upset a few customers, but organizations learned to live with it. Now however, through social media and sites dedicated to customer reviews, disgruntled customers have a public platform to amplify their outrage. Keep in mind that a comment that's spoken may be forgotten, but a remark written in cyberspace may last forever. Add the human tendency to take the written word more seriously than a spoken comment, mix in the sheer volume of people connected through social media and you have a formula for a perfect storm where a single unhappy customer can inflict serious brand damage.
When mistakes happen and your product or service falls short of expectation, you of course give a refund or exchange. But that’s not enough. On top of the exchange or refund, give the customer something for their inconvenience. Any gesture or token of appreciation that addresses the customer’s hassle-factor can transform an upset customer into a tweeting trumpeter of your virtues. That’s the kind of viral marketing we’d all love.
Bottom line: these trends in technology show no signs of slowing. Customer service is no longer about processing a transaction. It’s about being a trusted advisor to ensure people are buying the right items and know how to use them. It means ensuring that every customer is genuinely satisfied with their choice. When you think about it, those strategies have always been smart. Now they’re critical.
This article is based on the bestselling book Becoming a Service Icon in 90 Minutes a Month by customer service strategist and certified professional speaker Jeff Mowatt. To obtain your own copy of his book or to inquire about engaging Jeff for your team, visit www.jeffmowatt.com or call toll free 1-800-JMowatt (566-9288).
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