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More customer service with less

Vijay Venugopalan | Sept. 17, 2009
New generation buying behaviours are changing how customer service needs to be delivered and enterprises must adjust.

Throughout this article, the words consumer and customer are used interchangeably referring to the youngsters and may be not you. The organisations or businesses referred to are those selling products and/or services to our new generation consumers in the digital world. FMCG (fast-moving consumer goods), healthcare businesses and the like are out of context for our discussion as they will be hale and healthy until humans have teeth and toothaches!  

There is a general belief that customer service is provided before, during or after a purchase and that it is delivered by customer service centres. Most organisations have a separate organisational structure for customer service from boardroom [CxO] to floor level [agents]. Usually, this team focuses on customer satisfaction, managing and maintaining customer relations, adding new channels [Web, e-mail, chat] of communication as and when needed, has access to back office and internal products and other teams to resolve customer requests or complaints. Some mature organisations even include this team in devising their next product. Sounds familiar?

Every aspect has a stake

The harsh message is that this structure will not sustain for long. The fundamental meaning of customer service will broaden and organisations will (some already have) realise that every aspect of the business has a stake in customer service.

Organisations will proactively listen to customers who are online all the time, talking. If they are not listening, their competitors will. Smart listeners will then design and deliver products that are suitable for tomorrows consumers considering their circumstances.  The consumers using the products are smart to manage it on their own and if they have a need to contact the organisation for assistance, those products may not sustain.

Hence, organisations will take contact avoidance strategies, that is, get the information required for consumers upfront proactively, thereby reducing the need for consumers to contact the organisation. If all organisations take this approach [they dont have a choice], there wont be a need for a dedicated customer service centre or a team within an organisation.

We all know Google has the highest online market share and is a US$21 billion, Fortune 200 company. As a regular Google user, have you ever thought of calling Google to clarify something with them?

Smart consumers

I agree most of our businesses are completely different from that of Google but the point that Im driving at is that smart consumers wont need assistance to use something designed for them. If they need assistance, organisations need to be prepared for one of the following:

1. The query or request is going to be extremely complex and the person responding should be a specialist.


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