Does Customer Service still matter?
Do any of us really believe that customer service still matters? Most business leaders would immediately say, “Sure it does,” because we take great pride in the customer experience we provide. As business owners and CEO’s, we carry the torch of serving our customers proudly and without reservation. However, are these same customers laughing behind our backs when we talk about how we plan to serve them? Are we spending time on something that is obsolete, forgotten, or simply old fashioned in today’s fast paced world of mobile engagement and transactional business?
I have wrestled with this question as I think about what my company needs to look like in the future. Candidly, I have been questioning a lot lately. In the world of information technology, it is abundantly clear that what allowed us to be successful for the first 10 years will not be what propels our growth and success in the coming 10 years. The way in which our customers view our value and how they procure IT services has changed dramatically with technologies like virtualization, cloud computing, and “rent a developer” from the farthest reaches of the earth. Is it then possible that our customers view how they are served differently too?
The expectations of customers have changed fundamentally in several key areas. First, what we previously considered crucial to customer service (being available, attention to detail, speed, and rapidly addressing issues and problems) are all considered table stakes now. Yes, they are all important and essential, but they do not differentiate. Next, customers expect us to focus on what we are great at doing. Customers frown quickly on a solution provider that purports to be good at everything or even a large number of things. Finally, the majority of customers desire a trust-based relationship. Their worlds are fast paced and rapidly changing; and, therefore, they need organizations and people they can trust. These are some of the biggest changes we have seen in terms of how customers have changed and what they expect in 2015.
This journey has been an ongoing one that has resulted in an evolving set of customer service expectations. In a nutshell, customers still care about customer service. However, how customer service is defined in 2015 is different; and understanding these differences appears to be very important. My research culminated in a customer service roadmap called CustomerFIRST where the word FIRST is an acrostic:
F – Flexible
I – Invested
R – Responsive
S – Strategic
T – Trusted
These five pillars of customer service were chosen because they consistently fit the mold of what I have heard over and over again from customers. Defining each of these and their meaning is quite important. Maybe the most sobering revelation is that the stakes and importance of customer services have increased. In fact, because solutions, education, technology, and opinions are so easily accessible over the Web, how a customer is served ends up being one of the most important areas of differentiation.
Over the coming weeks, I will be diving into each of these customer service expectations and providing the key elements of success for each based on the school of hard knocks and what clients are sharing with me today in 2015.
Until we meet again, I wish you the very best in your efforts to serve customers in the ways they want to be served.