Why has customer service gotten worse recently? Asked on one of the social media sites, this is a question that requires some serious thinking.
I feel the answer lies in technology!
With the advancement of technology customer expectations have increased manifold.
The customer is getting smarter by the day. He has also become very demanding. Earlier, a customer had the patience to wait a day or two for a response from the company. He was willing to fill out forms. It seemed acceptable. But come technology, he needs instant answers. And why not, that is what technology is supposed to do! So, why wait for a day or two?? Why fill forms when you have all my data? Sounds illogical! He has lost patience and knows that he can amplify his displeasure with the aid of the same technology, and share his experience with a million people. The world is buzzing customer experience, and he has realised that he is important and that, no company should take him for granted. He has realised that it is he who calls the shots.
On the other hand, companies are pouring millions to upgrade their systems and keep pace with the rapidly changing technology. Today, a company ‘must’ have a mobile app, omni channels, bots, etc. Ironically, companies delirious with omni channel have left the human channel somewhere in the background. Everyone is embracing AI and big data! Technology has become a primary interface between humans. The number of apps in your phone is proof enough. To drive the point further, industry estimates suggest that there are close to 85,000 vacant roles for coders across companies. Need I say more?
With so much on their plate, they are not able to keep pace with digital customer service. This reminds me of the phrase, ‘biting off more than you can chew’. They have invested and pushed each and every service tool possible on the customer without asking him ‘Are you happy with our offerings and services?’ ‘Will this make your experience any better?’ ‘ Are we meeting your needs?’ Most satisfaction surveys have drop downs with answers already fed by the organisation for the customer to choose from! In short, they are busy connecting with their heads but have forgotten the heart of the customer. With so much of focus on technology, companies have forgotten the key player in their business. THE CUSTOMER.
The customer on the other hand, is experimenting the various forms of service offerings. When he finds some or all of them are not working or meeting his expectations, he is disappointed. He tells the world. He goes to competition.
Speaking of competition, service providers fail to realise that technology can be very easily replicated. Today every company has an app. But how well does it work? Do bots really answer all customer questions? Are omni channels working seamlessly and in sync? They have failed to understand that the only offering that can never be replicated is organic customer service. Service in its natural or pure form. Service that connects with the heart and the head of the customer. Service by a human to a human. Service that he will be excited about. Service that will lure him back for more and bring friends and family along.
Today technology has been pushed onto customers to such an extent, that it is indirectly sending a message to the buyer – ‘I don’t want to know who you are. I am more interested in what you buy and how you buy. I am more interested in your money. I am happy with this relationship and with all the convenience I am offering you, you also ought to be content.’ Sad indeed.
What's the fix?
While we have to go with times, and embrace technology, we must use it to offer only those services that we have mastered 110%. Because companies cannot afford even 1% failure with their service standards. The customer will not accept it.
AI and big data are great tools, so long as we don't depend on them 100%. Instead, let's look ahead …. at the customer …. get to know him, his needs, what makes him tick, what gets him excited and offer just that. Apply machine intelligence, but also give it the human touch.
Companies should bear in mind that it is the customer who should guide them on how to run their business, not technology. Technology is only a facilitator in the process. And if companies get this mixed up, their service will suffer and they will experience many ‘hits and misses’ in their mission and vision to be customer focused.
Reminds me of what my mother used to say: "an overdose of anything can be fatal." It applies to technology as well.