The evolution of customer service, v3.0

Is customer service a function of the sales department?  Is service delivery under the umbrella of brand?  Who’s job is customer service, anyway?  Is there more to it than product returns and delivery problems?  Does the web complicate matters?

More chances to serve customers in the information revolution

Wikipedia defines customer service as follows:

The provision of service before, during and after a purchase.

Takeaways:  One – Customers are gathering intel about your brand before you even have an opportunity to “sell” them.  Two – Every aspect of your brand (including business processes) that surrounds them during the sales process matters.  Three – Customers file mental score cards about your brand that matter…sometimes much later.  And in the digital age, sometimes at scale.

Surprise and delight

Jamier L. Scott is quoted by Efraim Turban, a professor of information systems at California State University, in his book Electronic Commerce – A Managerial Perspective, as saying:

“Customer service is a series of activities designed to enhance the level of customer satisfaction – that is, the feeling that a product or service has met the customer expectation.”

Takeaways:  One –  Attributes of service should be dovetailed with each milestone of the conversion funnel/decision cycle; there are tactics and even processes appropriate for each progressive layer.   Align your brand message with relevant consumer tasks.  Two – Service overlays or boosts satisfaction.  Therefore, customer satisfaction is derived from met rational and emotional needs, creating an environment for trust and affinity.  Two – Service is about holistically addressing and even anticipating triggers along the decision path.  Answering before asked, giving before needed, introducing other to add more value than expected.

Service isn’t overhead.  It’s the cost of doing business

Micah Solomon writes the following in his Fast Company article titled “Seven Keys to Building Customer Loyalty and Company Profits”:

“Online customers are literally invisible to you (and you to them), so it’s easy to shortchange them emotionally. But this lack of visual and tactile presence makes it even more crucial to create a sense of personal, human-to-human connection in the online arena.”

Takeaways: One – Just like email can omit tone, inflection, and body language (often leading to misunderstandings), eCommerce transactions and self-serve info search omit the human element, the personal touch, the concierge level of attention to detail.  Like the mint on your pillow, you can certainly live without it, but boy do you take notice when its there, a sweet surprise.  Two – The nature of online platforms and task completion can be very sterile, for reasons of utility, personal security, and more.

That means more than ever – as the web is the first destination for product research and a growing slice of retail spend, you’re relying on your brand to carry a lot of weight in the spaces where prospects and customers spend time.  Are your brand messages woven consistently throughout each channel, to provide optimal brand experience (and customer service) where other inputs (touch, taste, smell) don’t exist?

Not a drop in the bucket

In their book Rules to Break and Laws to Follow, Don Peppers and Martha Rogers, Ph.D. write:

“Customers have memories. They will remember you, whether you remember them or not.” Further, “customer trust can be destroyed at once by a major service problem, or it can be undermined one day at a time, with a thousand small demonstrations of incompetence.”

Takeaways:  One – brand promise still matters, even in the information revolution.  Two – everyone spending their money wants to feel like they matter, that they count and are appreciated for having made the ‘right’ brand selection.

Give ‘em more than what they ask for and you’ll be repaid ten fold.

6 Comments for: The evolution of customer service, v3.0

Marc Meyer

Heather, I love the Peppers and Rogers quote.. Great post and I’m glad your focusing on it, especially after my experience today.



Heather Rast
Twitter: heatherrast

Thanks for stopping by, Marc. Although I’m bummed to know your own bad experience earlier today precipitated things. The P&R quote is simple truth – brand erosion due to experience and service can result from drips as well as full-on faucet. One exceptional “wrong” can mean there are no chances to win back the customer or resolve their issue. A few minor wrongs (in my opinion) are often even worse; maybe the events don’t escalate (result in the level of emotion your experience did today), but unreliable service can damage trust and confidence, leading the consumer to feel disappointed in their original decision to buy. After extending trust 1, 2, or 3 times and being dissatisfied each time, exasperation takes over. That speaks of service levels that are systemic rather than one-off.



Top 10 Companies With the Most Customer Service Complaints on Twitter: AT&T Worst, Apple Sixth
We analyzed thousands of customer service complaints on Twitter (from 13 Aug 2010 to 16 Aug 2010), to find out which corporations caused the most frustration.

Data was first collected from the Twitter Search API, using a search for “customer service” together with any one of: fail, sucks,worst, poor, bad, terrible or awful. Tweets that included links were filtered out, as were re-tweets, to maximize the likelihood of personal experiences and reduce tweets about articles or stories (e.g. Jet Blue, Santander and O2 customer service stories were prevalent over the survey period).

The extracted tweets were placed into an Excel spreadsheet and manually verified over the course of a day, to check the validity of the complaints (i.e. to ensure that tweets like “I’ve never received bad customer service from X” weren’t included), and to extract the correct names of corporations (i.e. some people use the full company name, others use Twitter usernames, hash-tags, or abbreviations). Where described in the tweet, we also recorded the cause of the frustration, e.g. slow service or rudeness.
Robert´s last blog post ..T-Mobile Coverage Promises


Heather Rast
Twitter: heatherrast

Hi, Robert. Thanks for telling us a little about your company’s findings (Groubal). Any particular reasoning behind the Aug 13-Aug 16 window? I might have thought a longer time frame would have been more statistically relevant. Do you have thoughts to add about the post content itself? What place to public rating aggregators like Groubal have in issue resolution for customers? Do you expect to influence corporate policy? Heather


Create customer loyalty with exceptional experiences | Social Media Explorer

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Robert Doner

Hello Heather…sorry for taking so long to reply, however Groubal has been evolving by the hour. The snapshot of Aug. 13-16 was a sampling to whet the appetite sort of speak. And so now I would like to personally invite you to view the finished product: The Measure That Matters!

Your feedback and input is encouraged and welcomed.



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