In 2004, when my oldest son was eight, we visited NASA’s Johnson Space Center on our way to Galveston, Texas. On the tour, we saw the podium where, in 1962, President Kennedy boldly stated that the United States would send a man to the moon by the end of the decade. We toured Mission Control, watched video of the historic 1969 moon landing, and touched otherworldly souvenirs that said “been there, done that.”
At the end of the tour, the center director pointed to my two sons and told the crowd “this will be the generation that lands on Mars.” My son, now 18 and taking courses in engineering and astronautics, is on a path to potentially making that statement come true.
So what does the distant past and near future of space travel, and boldly going where no man has gone before, have to do with customer service? A lot actually, if you take a look:
1. Both are Next Frontiers: Space travel, in the 20th century and today, is still considered the next frontier. It was and is a competitive race and a differentiator. For brands, both price and product are becoming easier and easier to duplicate. Competition in customer service and the customer experience is their next frontier.
2. They’re Evolving through Technology: Both space exploration and customer service success require continuous innovation and advancement. When Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin set out to land on the moon, the Apollo 11 computers had less processing power than a cellphone. During that same time, customer service was limited to phone and in-store visits. Then came the web. Tomorrow, it’s the Internet of Things. Technology is empowering and advancing both efforts as we continue to push the limits on what we can do and what can be accomplished. In the near future, customers might be receiving self-service instruction via HoloLens, for example. Imagine that….
3. They Require Dedication and Stick-to-itiveness: Both the space race and customer service require team dedication and a keep at it attitude. Look at SpaceX’s recent Falcon 9 “almost” rocket landing or Virgin Galactic’s past testing setbacks. The reality is that, in working to move forward, things won’t go as planned, but we must continue to move forward and improve.
4. They Share Pioneers: It’s interesting to note that some of today’s private sector space pioneers are also some of today’s customer service/customer experience pioneers, including Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos. Their forward-thinking business success has given both the inspiration and the means to further empower people and pursue the next frontiers in both space and customer experience.
5. There’s No Going Back: Many say we should go back to moon, but if you ask the man who’s already been there, Buzz Aldrin is saying “get your ass to Mars.” The same thinking applies to customer service and the customer experience. We can’t look back. We can’t stop now and say good enough. We can’t do things again and expect the same excitement and kudos.
Expectations are growing. Technology is advancing. We have the potential as individuals and teams. We always have to find inspiration, be passionate, look forward and continue to push the limits.