Who Needs Customer Service Anyway?


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One group that shouldn’t is our customers.

Now, I’m not talking about customer engagement, service delivery or the customer experience in general.  What I mean is the first thing people usually think about when they think about customer service – “the call center”.  That phone number you have to call when something went awry.

What customers need and want are companies to satisfy their specific issues.  I’ve been reading a bunch lately about service-dominant logic thanks to folks like Wim Rampen and Graham Hill.  It is an experience economy.  Customers don’t buy products or services.  They exchange something for something.  Most often, its money in exchange for satisfaction of a specific need or issue.  A car satisfies emotional needs, ego needs and the need to get from point A to point B; among others.

So, while I’m hearing much lately about customer service becoming the new marketing, I take issue with this for a couple of reasons.

First, this statement assumes as fact that “customer service” is a function or department, connected to which is usually a call center.  It discounts the real value of customer service as a business strategy, a corporate philosophy and a culture that permeates an enterprise.  And, so this leads to issue number two.

Companies that have a deep-rooted foundation in a customer-service oriented culture focus on the customer experience.  That experience starts with the very first interaction with the brand; through advertising, word-of-mouth, entering a store or any other of myriad methods by which customers get introduced to brands.  This process often starts even before a need is identified by the customer that requires attention.  Many of these companies consider it actually a failure of the experience delivery if a customer need the customer service department.

This failure, in those companies that really understand the drivers of customer satisfaction, loyalty and superior experience, represent an opportunity to do something; to fix a problem internally.

What customer service (in the departmental sense) should focus on evolving into is the hub for business process reengineering within the company.  Yes, good old BPR.  I’m sure some of you remember Michael Hammer from B-School.  His claim was that most of the work being done in an organization (answering customer calls) does not add any value for customers.  And, this work should be removed rather than accelerated through automation – where we spend most of our “BPR” efforts within the four walls of the contact center.

Start with this.  Run a simple report from your contact center CRM system on contact reason codes.  How many of them say things like “billing inquiry” or “shipment error” or “product spoiled/damaged”.  Those codes mean there is something going on elsewhere in the company that is causing that customer to need customer service, to pick up the phone.  I know many contact centers produce these reports and distribute the information.  But, how many actually take ownership of these issues. 

What’s the potential impact, both in real dollars and on the customer experience if customer service became the new corporate BPR consultants rather than the new marketing?

Run that CRM report, and I think you’ll have your answer.

(oh, and read Bill Price’s book The Best Service is No Service. He’s the authority on this subject)

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Barry Dalton
Telerx Marketing
Consumed by the pursuit of delightful service. Into all things customer loyalty and technology. My current mission is developing new service channels and the vision of the contact center of the future.


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