A series of recent experiences on the customer side shed light on what I believe is a growing problem, possibly made worse by the public nature of communications – or possibly just poor grammar.
Cannot or Can’t is an expression of inability or incapacity – “I can’t take the garbage out”
Will not, or Won’t is also deliberate choice not to act – “I won’t take the garbage out”
For those of you with kids, those phrases are really quite different if they are used in response to “hey, would you please take out the garbage”. My reaction would be (has been?) very different in each case. Yes, I realize that some kids will use improper grammar and use one, and actually mean the other, so please look beyond that point.
When someone in customer service says “I cannot help you”, I believe that what they often mean is that they won’t help you. However, if those words are used, while they might be honest, they might incite a much stronger reaction. Think offering a hotel voucher due to a delayed flight, or a refund for a poor experience or some other scenario. Read between the lines of ‘ I could help, but I am choosing not to help, so I won’t’ – yeah, probably not going to fly.
The unfortunate use of “Can’t” is when a subordinate is acting as a face for a more senior person or larger organization. Is this an act of proper deflection, a way to defuse the situation? “My boss says I can’t” Which is a proxy for, my boss can, but won’t and I will get in trouble if I let you talk to him (this exact scenario happened to me last week).
This may simply be a game of semantics, but it is a bit more complicated when the social web becomes involved. I cannot think of many more examples, or maybe I simply won’t try 🙂
Customer service is a mission critical, strategic, imperative, and it drives customer experience. Your products and services are evaluated every moment of every day. When the ‘evaluation’ is not going so well, the phone rings, email chimes, social networks sing. Brand performance (your brand), loyalty and customer satisfaction are driven by the experiences your customers have with your organization every day, every touch and every interaction – full circle.
Service organizations, whether for product companies, constituencies or service businesses are working diligently to orchestrate experiences that are positive, engaging, meaningful and consistent across all channels and touch-points. Imagine being the maestro of an orchestra with expertise levels that range from 20 years to 1 year (nails on a chalk board…). Providing consistent experience across channels and between channels is really, really hard! Further, throw in costs (people and technology), revenue, policy and productivity and your job became even harder.
Getting There, it is Possible
R “Ray” Wang wrote a blog for Harvard Business Review about a year ago, the key points are still resonating. In the post he identified nine characteristics of engagement systems that differ from the transactional systems. Take a look for yourself (after you finish reading this of course). But, I would like to focus on a few of the key points, just now:
First, there are systems that are “Design for sense and response.” These systems of engagement keep the ‘ear to ground’ in order to assess en masse. No transaction system was ever meant to perform this type of function.
Second, in order for the response part to work, systems need to “Foster two-way, engaging conversations.” What this means is that, we must avoid the one sided, unidirectional, broadcast type conversations. In order to accomplish this, systems and people need coordination and a joined up focus.
Third, if the ‘Social Web’ has taught us anything, it is that patience is a dying characteristic – You must deliver (service, answers, help, responses) in real time. Engagement systems need to focus not only on immediacy, but context as well. Users can see activity streams, real-time alerts, and notifications on all their devices.
Finally, you need to reach your constituents, customers, partners and ecosystem on the channels they want, not just the ones that work for you. Your systems of interactions or engagement need to touch corporate departments, personal networks, and mobile devices.
And the way in which you get this done is with a Platform built today, with an eye on tomorrow.
How do you put the Systems Together?
Integration needs to make things easier for the knowledge worker rather than introducing overhead and friction. The consumer Web set the baseline expectations for ease of use including mobile and tablet access. On my small phone, my contacts are linked across 4 different networks and my little device helps me get things done – are you systems integrated?
Work streams and processes need to include integrated, permission based system access including activity streams and community type interactions. This is coordination and collaboration at both the human level and the system level. I need to find the people and information I need to solve a particular problem. The only way to do this is in context. Some people call this search, I like to call it find – similar but different. Hard, yes, but possible.
I will leave with the following. Before I do, I would ask you to consider the following question and comment back. Is this a social issues, an analytics issue or a service issue?
According to an IBM research study – “Social media conversations about parking in Bangalore are three times more negative than in other cities.”
And to this you might say “So, What?” But, let us think about this for a moment. If a city could monitor with an operational ‘eye’ (as opposed to just analytical), the city could learn even more and might actually be able to come up with some tactical solutions, and meet the need of the constituents.
(Disclosure: This post was written for KANA as part of their KANA Connect Customer Conference which is in full swing in Vegas. You can see other posts on the KANA Blog)
Life is truly stranger than fiction. You cannot make this stuff up. But, before I go there, let me do a little compare and contrast and start with how things should be done.