Keynote: A Vision of Customer Service For THIS Millennium
November 11 is a day to remember and honor those who fought for our freedoms and quality of life, and as such it’s a solemn day, and one that often provokes reflective thinking about our values, the nature of sacrifice and gratefulness, and to ponder what the things we often take for granted. There are really no obvious links between this day and customer service. It would be a disservice to those who have served in the military, and their families to assume our trivial concerns about customer service rise to even a fraction of the import of what this day is about.
Yet, in my own very personal thinking, I started to think about what kind of world — in fact, what kind of relationships, would characterize a world of MY choosing, if I was so empowered. Would it be the relationships of the past where customer and business each struggle to squeeze out the last drop from each other, as adversaries? Where winning often becomes a goal in itself? Where customer service techniques sometimes rise to the level of high theater? And where, for most, the basic elements of customer service are simply not received?
Or would my vision of customer service be different? Based on the idea of human beings working in concert to do business? Cooperatively rather than cut-throat get-all-you-can? Where basics of customer service like response time, and time to remedy problems are REASONABLE and accessible to the overwhelming majority of customers regardless of their color, location or wealth? Where customers don’t spend most of their time interacting with machines to get help? And where customers respect that businesses need to make a profit?
In My World of Customer Service
In my world:
Businesses don’t enter into the theater of the absurd by claiming they “love their clients”. Yes, they treat customers as important and valued human beings worth respect, trust and effort within the confines of their business models. Love? No. Let’s not demean the word.
Customers don’t use businesses to avoid responsibility for their own buying choices. Customers research their purchases BEFORE they buy, when possible, and don’t expect businesses to remedy customer errors and in the process lose money. Business interactions are based on mutual respect, not on one party screwing up and blaming the other party or expecting the other party to fix the error.
Both customers and businesses stress the point of reasonableness. What is reasonable is based on both parties trying to understand each other and the constraints of the situation while not trying to gain some advantage or win. For example, if I buy something at Canadian Tire, it is NOT reasonable to return it (because I simply changed my mind) at Walmart, no matter how much I don’t like Walmart.
Everyone recognizes that customer service staff are human beings, as are customers. Both customers and staff have bad days, sometimes do dumb things, and make mistakes. Let’s all give each other some leeway when it’s possible understanding that most aspects of customer service are NOT ENTITLEMENTS, but offers for marketing, public relations or “just because”.
Businesses, rather than trying to increase profits by offering minimal and useless levels of customer service, realize that one of the reasons to offer good basic customer service is because it’s the right thing to do. That’s because often, investments in customer service don’t show results on the profit bottom line while they do show up on the expenditure side. For some businesses, improving customer service will result in less profit. For other businesses it will result in better profits. Beyond all that, isn’t it time we treated our customers — human beings like ourselves, as people deserving of respect, a reasonable amount of help, and a little investment?
Businesses stop dangling customer service perks (loyalty programs, discounts, etc), and stop trying to make the customer go WOW, and focus on basic customer service. Easy access, no delay interaction with human beings when needed with fast resolution of issues as possible.
Finally, take each customer service consultant or “expert” and pack him or her up for a voyage to the new customer service camp in the Arctic Circle, where they can all spend their time WOWING each other while actually accomplishing nothing for each other.
Wondering About Others?
Coming soon more details about my vision of customer service from different points of view — customer, business, customer service rep. Meanwhile, I also wonder this: Would customers trade all the bonuses, programs, fake attempts at making them loyal, WOW, hype and other “stuff” in exchange for a world where the customer can pick up the phone (or email or whatever), get a human being to talk to within 45 seconds, and get their issue remedied (or settled one way or the other) within a very few minutes?
I would. I can make do with “just the basics”. But I want the basics done really, really well.