The Future of Customer Service
For me, customer service is a lot like my weekly running routine. I find the biggest hill in the neighborhood, run up it as fast as my body will allow, and rinse and repeat until at the top of said hill my chest no longer burns like there is a fiery volcano exploding in my lungs. Until that plateau arrives, maybe weeks later, I know that I am still expanding. It is a physical cue that serves as an indication for when to push myself further mentally and physically.
I’ve found the same to hold true for customer service. It’s been 7 years now since I first started “serving” others in various capacities and things are finally starting to hit autopilot. Customers call, I answer the phone, customers email, I send a reply. It is a formula that we all have been repeating for years on end. A formula that I now predict is ripe for change, expansion, and improvement. Call centers, and our current paradigm of reactive customer service is in many ways a product of an industrial age that is no longer relevant to this present moment. Why are we still crowded into a square-shaped office space with square-shaped cubicles in a 9am-5pm job routine when technology affords us so much more flexibility and dynamic, organic growth? Team building happens in its own time, not on a 40-hour set schedule.
Is a local office environment really even relevant these days when your greatest pool of talent, resources, and creativity might not live within the local San Diego county (or wherever your office is located)? Imagine, my futuristic thinkers, when the day arrives when there are no more offices. When customer service teams are assembled not by geographic boundaries, but are developed solely based on the level of skill the individual has to offer, and their ability to connect with other team members from anywhere around the world is so simple with our amazing technological tools.
Some inspiring changes for the future that I’d love to see include:
- Changing the name of “customer service” – This all too often, in my mind at least, engenders a kind of one-sided relationship. You are the customer, I am the employee, there are fine lines and technicalities to be drawn. How can we break down these barriers and start to form equal partnerships?
- Proactive momentum – Take the time and earnest effort to educate customers about your product. That way when they really do need to call in, it’s not for lack of knowledge, but an actual situation that requires creative solutions.
- Please stop trying to fit me in a box – Harness the strengths of your individual contributors on your team. Tune into what areas of work each person enjoys best. A call center engenders an image of every single employee on the phone, but is that really the best fit on an individual, unique personality basis?
As new agents of customer relationship change, we no longer sit idly by waiting for the customer to call us. We start to take a pro-active approach and bring customers our way. Reach out with a phone call, an email, a Tweet! Engender a relationship with the customer, instead of waiting around for a phone to ring. It’s a new model that I think requires a new skill set. Where multitasking has been obliterated from its mythological existence, and instead replaced with the ability to engender relationships and focus on one customer at a time. A specialized environment where people are not herded into an assembly line call center queue, but are treated as organic individuals with needs, desires, and hopes to be met in their own dynamic times.
Sharing this is all so exciting for me, because I know that I am already one of these agents of change, ready to jump on this new and exciting adventure as the realization becomes apparent to others. There are too many alternatives available these days to continue performing the same, dry routine. Customer service is like any other monolithic societal structure, whether that’s a financial system sorely in need of rejuvenation, or an educational system requiring a new direction. We have all accepted that there is a formula to customer relationship management, when the formula itself might very well be what we need to re-analyze. For those of you with power and the ability to influence your organization’s direction, I ask this question to you now. What is your current customer service paradigm, and does it still hold relevance for this day and age? If not, what would you change?