By Myles McHugh.
Just cast your mind back ten years. Think about how you resolved your issues with organisations. Most of it was carried out in person, over the phone or by letter or email. Mostly it took some time especially if there was a problem, complaint or poor service. Benchmark where we are in terms of technologies and platforms available to us today. Our customer experience in nearly every area of our lives has been transformed. Airlines, retailers, utilities, banking, government and even community groups have all changed how they interact with their customers. Now imagine the next decade. The speed of change is so fast it’s scary! Here are some lessons that might be useful as we contemplate what the future of service might look like.
The power has shifted to the Consumer!
The result of the developments in technology is that the power has shifted from the organisation to the individual customer. We as customers are less tolerant of poor service. We will not tolerate sloppy, shoddy, rude or disinterested service. In the past we could complain and depending on the organisation our dissatisfaction would be resolved somewhere on a scale from superb to non-existent. The problem for the customer was the “take it or leave it” attitude of companies. Today however the customer holds much more power. The shift in power from organisation to consumer has been rapid and it will become even more rapid in the future. Twitter and Facebook have democratised the relationship between suppliers and their customers. It has become even more important for businesses to have a clear and prompt social media strategy to listen and communicate with their customers.
Speed of response is critical.
Customers will not wait around for you to get your act together. They demand a quick response. If they don’t get it, two things happen. They leave you and go to a competitor and leave a series of damaging comments online. Traditionally we were taught that speed and quality were not good bedfellows. This is not as true as it used to be. Just look at how Amazon respond in a speedy way but maintain a quality service. This is now what is expected and if you don’t deliver, you will suffer. It’s worth challenging any assumptions you may have about turnaround times for your product or service. Your customers already have done so.
Remove unnecessary scripts
We will all be familiar with the scripted responses that we get when we raise an issue with a customer service representative. In the past they had their place. Unempowered staff who were required to give the scripted response regardless of the individual circumstances add nothing to your customer’s experience. An app or an automated service can now do this. Instead train your customer response staff to the highest standard and equip them to offer genuine unscripted solutions to customer problems.
Encourage your customers to share their experience.
Customers who have just received exceptional service are your best marketing tool. They provide a genuine and honest opportunity to broadcast to their peers, friends and beyond. Just look at the success of TripAdvisor and similar platforms. If, for example, you are in the hospitality industry, should it not make sense to encourage your customers to post comments, recommendations of their experience with you? Retailers can also use very simple apps to photograph and share satisfied customers. Of course, this must be done with consent and with integrity.
Make Self Service a pleasant experience.
Self-service means the customers can resolve their issues themselves. They don’t need to contact the customer service support for any query. Millennials are tech-savvy and want to help themselves without the need of any human intervention. They will not tolerate waiting in lines, repeating their problem to five different people or being treated like a number. They like solving their own issues. I am happy to conduct 80 to 85% of my banking transactions online without ever interacting with people. The self-service element is very important. I have the choice to do my business 24/7/365. The quality of the interaction needs to be sharp, responsive and logical. This is a basic requirement. When I need a personal service, I expect it to be of the highest quality. The systems put in place need to be of intelligent to ensure that the interaction is seamless, responsive and dynamic. It is estimated that by 2020 in the US 85% of customers’ relationship with organisations will not require human intervention.
Don’t assume only millennials are online
Much has been made of the fact that millennials are more demanding and have more options to complain, ask questions and give compliments that ever before. This is of course true. But it would be a big mistake to ignore other demographics. The older shopper today is quite proficient with technology and it is estimated that 50% of over 60’s have a smartphone and actively use it. The difference of course is that they have more time and more money. The challenge in the coming years is to tap into these markets and provide exceptional service.
Make it personal
Companies who manage to adapt their offering to the new technology space while offering exceptional personal service will be the new winners.
My mantra for how to treat the customer (irrespective of personal or online) is summed up in the words of Maya Angelou.
I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.
Now that’s a challenge!