Customer Service Predictions For 2011 – Myth Smashing – (CS Improves?)

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Storm Clouds on the 2012 Customer Service Horizon

As is the case every year, people stick their oars in and make predictions for the next year, and there’s tons of pundits telling us what is going to happen in 2011 in the worlds of both social media and customers service — two intimately linked topics. Most of the “experts” I’ve read seem to express their predictions as unannounced HOPES masquerading as tea leaf readings, and since both topics attract rather strong fanatics, it’s not surprising. So, we’re going to make OUR predictions, based on numbers that are usually not circulated much, because, quite honestly, people don’t want to consider the downsides of their hopes.

#1: Pundits tend to agree that customer service will improve in 2012 due to increased corporate awareness of the power of customers coming about as a result of their acquiring voices through social media.

Not happening, and guess what topic the next series article covers.

As customers we all want better service, although I sometimes wonder at a) how much we are willing to pay, since it’s not free for businesses to offer good CS; and b) how unreasonable customer demands often are (talk to any customer service rep).

Business, however, look at customer service as overhead, particularly in terms of after-sales, and while it may be true that more companies are realizing that PR, marketing and customer service are merging, they are not going to put more money into customer service. What they are doing, at least the major corporations, is opening up social media channels IN ADDITION to continuing to support existing methods of contact, thus spreading their resources more thinly.

Overall, customer service quality will drop in 2012. On one hand the “old” channels will remain atrocious in terms of complications, level of automation, response time, quality of customer service reps, etc, or even worsen if that’s possible. On the other customers who have figured out that contacting companies via the “new” social media will discover that, in 2011, at least towards the end of the year, that path will not be faster, or easier. Companies will no longer respond so quickly on social media as the more aggressive ones have in 2011 as the new toy loses lustre.

Customers will realize that contacting companies for customer service via social media simply adds another layer to the communication task, and also realize companies shift from social media to phone or email anyway to complete the communications and problem solving.

Underlying a lack of improvement is a basic tenet that has not changed. Companies who offer “good enough” customer service will continue to thrive business-wise. They will continue to make profits, experience growth (such that is possible in a tough economy), have their share prices move with the market or above it, even while they may cut customer service and support staff, or outsource it to the backwoods of Dildo, Newfoundland, Canada (no offense to the Dildodians).

The same companies that have been cursed by customers as having terrible customer service (see the various surveys for past years) will be on the list again for 2011. Comcast, a company heralded as doing remarkable things with social media and customer service will continue to be among the worst perceived. Wal-Mart will be around the top of the bottom. Several banks, including Citibank, who hired the social media/customer service guru responsible for Comcast’s surge (well no, it didn’t and neither will Citibank). The usual airlines and telecoms will be there.

And none will suffer from the perceptions of poor customer service in any visible financial ways, except if there’s an untoward singular event (like a plane crash).

That’s because their customer service is “good enough”, and customers simply do NOT behave like most of the pundits think they behave. Of course, there’s also the fact that for a number of sectors, there IS no competition that offers better customer service, and that’s because they are ALL doing “good enough”, because it works.

Sorry folks. We’d all like to see better service. Companies would be better advised to reduce the channels they use, but use them very very well, and concentrate their customer service resources. Imagine a company that says: “No, we don’t offer support through email, or social media, or even through our store sales staff as an after sales service. Instead, CALL us at our toll free number, and we guarantee, you will speak to a helpful, knowledgable person within FIVE minutes of calling, and [make whatever promises/commitments work].”

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Robert Bacal
Robert began his career as an educator and trainer at the age of twenty (which is over 30 years ago!), as a teaching assistant at Concordia University. Since then he as trained teachers for the college and high school level, taught at several universities and trained thousands of employees and managers in customer service, conflict management and performance appraisal and performance management skills.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Thanks for presenting a contradictory view to most of the 2011 customer service trends. I agree and still find it amazing that businesses look at customer service as overhead. Um, aren’t customers the reason they exist?! (Yes, also to make profit, but you can’t do that without customers.)
    This is where smaller businesses can have an advantage, if they’re willing to take it. They can be more customer-centric and build a strong and loyal following with better than “good enough” service.
    Love your suggestion in the last paragraph. It would totally work. Wonder if there are any companies bold enough to implement.

  2. I think that because we are all customers, we look at customer service from that perspective, and lose site of the business issues involved. As a customer I want better service, but as a business owner, I see the costs of what are often unreasonable demands from customers and from idiot consultants trying to tell me to love my customers.

    The reality is that it costs. Period. If you want more, you have to pay for it.

    For only a very few companies in a very few sector, customer service differentiates them from competitors, and if you think about it, customer service can’t make a company stand out, if everyone is doing it.

    It’s a partial fiction that companies profit from great customer service, and that’s what gets lost here.

    CS support IS overhead, but the issue is can it be turned into a profit center instead of a cost center.

    For most companies, no. So we get worse customer service, not better, and it’s for some good reasons.

    Drives me nuts, too. I just want my problems solved. I don’t want gifts, I don’t want love. I don’t want wow. Companies, take your resources and give me good basic service, and I’ll get my love from my wife.

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