Did we screw up customer service in the 2000s?

When I meet with customers to explain that the QuickLogix qLSocial product will help them increase customer engagement and keep their fingers on the pulse of customer sentiment, they sit forward and want to know more. Why is this such a big deal for companies now? In the past decade or so, businesses have cumulatively sent consumers into a state of starvation when it comes to individual concerns and complaints. What were we doing wrong?

1. Removing customer service phone numbers from websites: Let’s face it- when you are in a bind, you want to tell someone the problem instead of typing out an email or filling out an online form. The one thing you definitely do not want to do is deal with this next thing…

2. Setting up long winded, automated phone support systems: Possibly the biggest annoyance conjured up by customer service experts in the past decade is the never ending automated response system. Even more so, the ones that won’t let you skip to a human by pressing the number 0 right at the beginning. And when you do press 0, you get in line as a valued customer for what seems like eternity. You have to setup a calendar appointment so you can figure out why there was that unexplained charge on your phone bill!

3. Providing scripts to customer service and sales reps: We have all been on the receiving end of the service representative who appears to simply not understand what you are telling them. I’ll never forget this mortgage company Sales rep who called me one afternoon. I was indeed looking to refinance my home but he would not stop badgering me about what was happening in my personal life that made me want to refinance. I tend to be a private person and I did not appreciate his probing questions and I said as much. He made me feel like I had a mental health issue because I would not confide in him. It occurred to me later that he was simply following his script- he could not give me numbers unless we walked through the questions he had to ask me. It wasn’t entirely his fault- but it’s an example of why profiling customers as a group is just not a smart idea.

4. Placing an unreasonable incentive on short customer service calls: When I worked as a software developer, we once had a manager who decided that measuring performance would be based on the number of issue tickets that people closed. It lead to the incredibly unhealthy and unproductive habit among the team wherein folks would create tickets for misspelt commented text. I think incentivizing customer service reps by the shortness of their calls can be similarly counter-productive.

But in all this time, we have been doing some things right. By moving so many business transactions online, creating customer logins and monitoring web-traffic and behavior- we have been setting the stage for recovering lost ground using big data. For the last decade or more, we have been priming consumers to yearn for a personal touch, a feeling of being understood as an individual and not part of a herd! Engaging with customers is the low hanging fruit on the big data promise tree. You want to at least start there!

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