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How Do You Define Customer Service 4.0?

Posted on : 01-07-2009 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Brands, Customer Service


I know using something like Customer Service 4.0 is so 90’s, but it was the best way to show how service has changed over the years.  As I have discussed many times, Customer Service will be changing in many ways in the coming years (For reference check out this post “The Future of Customer Service“).  I think service will return to the basics and finding ways to help.  This will be influenced by many factors, including social media, but also changes within the work force.  There are other influences, such as the current economic environment.  I believe companies, who in the past viewed Customer Service as a cost center, are starting to realize that Customer Service is really a differentiator from their competitors.  Ultimately this has a greater impact on sales and retention than most other aspects of the experience.  I also believe companies are going to have to know their Customers much better and use this intelligence to build the relationship further.  Let’s take a quick look at the history of service:

  • Customer Service 1.0 – The One on One Era
    • The origination of service, it was really about personal interactions and relationships.
  • Customer Service 2.0 – Expanding Reach
    • Mail completely changed the relationship between businesses and their Customer.  Now there was a way to build relationships with Customer much further away.  The only negative was the lack of speed
    • As time moved on and the phone was invented service gained the necessary speed.  This can be referred to as Customer Service 2.5.  This truly was the golden age for service.  Companies now had the ability to help Customers anywhere and at anytime.
  • Customer Service 3.0 – Efficiency Era of Service
    • Most people think this began with email or chat, but it really started with everyone’s favorite interaction point, the IVR.  IVR stands for interactive voice response, but you probably know it better as press 1 for x and 2 for y…
    • The next enhancement in this era was email, a great easy way to assist Customers and offer support.  When this first came out as an option many companies were resistant due to fear of scalability and in many cases, legal fears of having interactions in writing (for those that discuss social CRM, does this sound familiar?).  We can refer to this as Customer Service 3.1
    • The biggest leap in efficiency was the implementation of web self service.  For many business this was a great way to reduce calls by allowing Customers to do that work themselves.  This would have to be Customer Service 3.5.
    • The next items seemed to come at the same time.  Starting in the later part of the 1990’s we began to see a large increase in outsourcing and the implementation of chat.  Chat was helpful because of the speed of interaction it offered and it is lower cost.  It is easy for an agent to have a few chat sessions open at the same time.  Outsourcing occurred because companies had a deep view that Customer Service is a cost center and in many cases they could offer the same level of support for less money.  We can refer to these as Customer Service 3.7 and 3.8.
  • Customer Service 4.0 – I am thinking the name for this will be the Customer Strikes Back, but it is really not defined yet.  Here are a few thoughts:
    • The social web will start to define companies and the everyday Customer will have the same influence, or in many ways greater, just by communicating their thoughts on a company
    • The internal workforce will demand improvements in creating the right experience
    • Intelligence offered through tools will bring the Customer story directly to the ‘C suite.”  Remember executives are Customers too and they want their Customer to have a good experience in the same manner they would expect if they were to call a company for service.  Examples of these tools are
      • Speech analytics from call recordings that convert calls to searchable text (example is Impact 360 from Verint)
      • Social media tools will bring Customer discussions direct from the web to the top executives (example is Radian 6)
    • Customers will want less interactions with companies, but when they require them they will want it to be more personal and less scripted
    • Crowd sourcing will be a way to build knowledge for Customers and help when products and service cross between many companies

As a Customer of many different companies, how would you define Customer Service 4.0?  I am not looking for comments on specific companies, but rather the service field in general.  For inspiration below is a panel interview from the Rockstars of Social CRM event put on last week by Radian 6.  It is 45 minutes, but for a short video I posted yesterday has some of the same thoughts.