We have witnessed a number of revolutions in the past year—Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Iran, Syria, to name a few. Three features characterize them all—tough economics, angry citizens, and the capacity to mobilize a large number of people–often using social media.
The French Revolution of the late 1700s had similar ingredients. Their economy was wrecked by financing troops sent to help fight the American Revolution, citizens were angered over oppressive taxation by an arrogant and opulent king, and a mobilized population was emboldened by the stories of America’s heroic fight for freedom coupled with the enlightened writings of Voltaire and Rousseau available to all. The storming of the Bastille to free political prisoners kicked off a bloody war that triggered dramatic changes.
Do these three features sound familiar? Customers today are anxious, picky and fickle coming out of a long, scary recession–still raging from many people. They are often angered by the restrictions and robotics of self-service and automation that seem to take the “customer” out of “customer service.” And, they have the capacity to mobilize a lot of equally worried and frustrated customers through the power, speed and reach of the Internet. Today’s customers are truly wired and dangerous.
However, the customer as king is just a flawed as the service provider as king. How do you un-break the cycle and calm the brewing storm? By putting the principles of partnership back into the customer’s experience.
Service has always been a sort of partnership—customer and service provider together co-creating an experience around a product or outcome. But, too often service providers have been absent from their side of the encounter, sending a proxy in the form of people-hostile technology. We all enjoy the many benefits of self-service and automation. But our loyalty is reserved for those organizations that craft all forms and channels of service delivery with the customer as the central focal point.