Operations killed the Customer Service star

Posted by Jeff Schnurr on November 10, 2013 · 3 min read

For many companies, customer service is purely a numbers game. Average handle time, first call resolution, cost per call - this business has been optimized into a factory of brisk, consistent, vanilla support transactions. Where possible, we use IVR or self service automation to take those imperfect and expensive humans right out of the equation, and quality measures derived from survey feedback convince us that customers are happy. It’s a perfect system.

Ok, hang on a second. Customers are the life-blood of our business, and the fact that they’re asking for service means they need our help. In their time of need, at the point when their loyalty is most vulnerable, our plan is to stick to the script and get this over with as fast as possible?

Social is different

Service executives are learning that Social Media is different. You’re not being “social” when every tweet comes from an anonymous corporate account, and directs the customer to call. Your vanilla responses will come off as tone deaf and disengaged. Customers notice when you only respond to the noisy complaints.

Instead, social needs to be a conversation. A brand ambassador - a human with a heart, an identity and a genuine desire to help - takes the time to understand the need and resolves the issue in a quirky and personal way, as humans tend to do.

The ops folks are rattled by the whole concept. The cost, the risk, the inconsistency - it can never work! Can’t we get those customers to call us?

Service disruption

Social media is more than a channel - it is disrupting the business of customer service overall. Many companies are feeling the heat, and not all are responding well. In fact, Frank Eliason, in an article on Quartz, went so far as to declare that social media customer service is a “failure”.

I see it differently. The current challenges are short term - the result of deeply entrenched operational behaviours. Long term, organizations learn how to observe and quantify the benefits that true social engagement creates, and the economics turn upside down. At some point, the added value derived from a meaningful, public interaction with a customer gets assigned a dollar value, and it becomes quaint - or even foolish - to provide factory service and waive the opportunity to realize that benefit.

The transformation

It’s then, and only then, when operations says “can’t they just tweet us”? The support team members are encouraged to express their individuality and creativity, making the customer service interaction rich and meaningful. Our industry gets our mojo back, and service becomes a strategic priority for the CEO.

And customers? Well, I’m guessing they would like to be treated as an individual, and have a real conversation.

It’s happening, and it’s awesome.