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The Future of Customer Service

Posted on : 18-06-2009 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Business, Customer Service

Tags: , ,

5

I have talked about it before, but Customer Service across all businesses has been changing, whether it is known externally or internally.  First and foremost the Customer has changed.  I always credit this to the popularity of Amazon reviews, Ebay ratings, and Google in general.  Beyond that the typical Customer Service workforce is changing, they are now filled with the Gen Y, Millennial Generation or whatever the name is today.  This is a group that prefers a more flattened approach.  They want to share their feedback, and they will provide it to whoever will listen, no matter the title of the person.  They are not out to impress, but they will drive their point home.

So what does this all mean for businesses?  The approach for everyone needs to change.  Lets start off with the Gen Y group, they want to be a integral part of the decision making process, they want to fully understand the reasons why decisions are made and they want to be able to provide clear feedback regarding how the business is being run.  Internally it is important to provide tools to allow team members to be able to take this bottom up approach.  Engage them in decisions and take the time to teach them why certain decisions are made.  They are eager to learn, and they will be even more dedicated to the company when they feel involved.  In my observations, I have noticed the baby boomer generation to be more accepting of leaders decisions.  I remember at my prior employer, when I started you would always hear “it is what it is.”  You are not going to change it, so accept it.  Well that was never my style!  Anyway, the Gen X’ers, of which I am a part of, will question things but usually in the end support the decision and move on.  That has never been my style, but for all groups I am generalizing, and I know there are people with other styles.  For companies to better run, and have a cohesive team, it will be important to better explain and involve all levels.  The other thing to realize is if you do not, Gen Y is very resourceful, and will find ways to move the needle in their favor.  I have seen many stories of this, so this will definitely be an important aspect to managing.  They will communicate with friends (“rally the troops”) or even engage the topic in public via social media.  But the good news is, they are really striving to do what they think is right for the company, and, actually in many cases, the Customer.  I have been in Customer Service management for many years and I have seen this many times.  Have you ever had a call and thought the representative was not up to par, maybe even down right rude?  Many times this is not because of the agent, but because they disagree with the policy and they are sending a message to the company through you.  Trust me, in my prior company I managed quality assurance, and I did it by evaluating the company as well as the representatives.  You learn a lot when you start to dig into what is occurring.

Now on to the Customer.  From what I have seen the Customer is tired of companies telling them what they like or dislike.  Amazon reviews (I know there were others prior, but it really took off from there in the US) started shifting that power.  Today if a product is bad, a Customer is going to try to tell as many people as possible.  This can be done through Amazon, but now with the popularity of places like Facebook and Twitter there are now many places to do it.  Companies have to recognize this and make sure their products are at the levels they would want to represent the brand.  Now, more important then ever, service will be leading the way.  Companies have depersonalized interactions through self-service.  There will also be a shift to personalize service again.  Measurements will shift, and in many places already have, from handle time to first contact resolution and Customer satisfaction.

Beyond all this Customers are going to demand more support in ways not noticed before.  How many people have called their internet service provider and the trouble was reported to be the router.  Well from experience I can say it may be, but companies are going to have to find ways to help with all aspects.  This is not easily done, but what I foresee is working with the entire web community to build help that is used with Customers on calls, and for someone surfing the internet looking for help.  I am in the process of designing a way this could be done across many spaces.  Customers will be a part of the answers and they will have the opportunity to help others.  This is not new, but really has been limited to help forums.  But in the future this will be part of the help through all communication channels.

I also think Customers will have a greater say in the service they received.  We have already seen this through all the surveys companies are doing, but I think involvement will go from teaching representatives, to talking with senior leaders.  A lot of the future involves a theme I have always said is the most important part of management: “Listening.”  The funny thing is when I interviewed for a management role at a former employer, Vanguard, I provided that as my response.  The feedback I was given was management was much more than that.  The funny thing is I used the same response for a different management role at Vanguard a few months later and I was hired.  To this day I still believe it is the most important aspect.  Many people around you, including Customers and staff members know so much more.  It pays to listen.