Every Tuesday evening (9 pm EST) a group of people get together on Twitter to discuss Customer Service. You could call it a Tweet Chat, Twitter Jam or a Virtual Water Cooler. The Hashtag; the way in which participants can both filter out noise and denote participation is #custserv. I do not participate every Tuesday, but try and listen in and join in when the timing works and have been doing so for quite a while. The focus last night was on front line agents. The chats are archived, diligently by Marsha Collier, here. but just to share some quick stats regarding last night (October 9, 2012); 95 participants (give or take) and my absolute favorite zero links, in the >750 messages exchanged.
But, how much can actually be shared in 140 characters? Do people simply ‘talk’ and not listen? Everyone has their own approach some topic are more spirited than others, that is for sure. Some people represent big business, some medium, some one person solopreneurs; some consultants, authors, speakers, vendors and practitioners. The egos are checked at the ‘door’ everyone has an opinion that matters. To answer my first question, yes, quite a lot can be shared in 140 characters, it does amaze me sometimes. Of course, there is the occasional ‘sound bite’ but those are becoming more rare.
OK, so how important IS the Front Line Service Person?
As I stated, the topic was regarding front line agents – my quick response to this was “Frontline is an attitude, not a person”. Moving beyond the soundbite, there is a series of subtopics which arise and can be discussed. When I said it, what I was thinking about was actually a bit of a technical spin, but even then there is so much more. The topic of the human element is very important and I will leave that to experts like Kate Nasser – check her work, it is time well spent. However, increasingly, the front line of your organization is technical – sometimes guided by humans, sometimes not. While I do not want to conjure images of battles, the front line of modern warfare is almost all electronic, with human input and intelligence playing a supporting role.
(No, I do not want you to consider doing battle with your customers – I was just making a point. Do a Google search for Front Line, I dare you)
Yes, each bit of technology should be carefully vetted, reviewed, scrutinized and checked again before deployment; but technology as the most likely front line agent is highly likely. From static websites, to FAQs and videos to knowledge bases and Integrated Voice Response systems and automatic email replies and avatar type text chats, non-humans are the only way many businesses are going to be able to scale. Because, in the end, businesses are there to make money. It is a tough, competitive, world out there and every chance they get to be more efficient will be taken.
Is this about Customer Service, Customer Experience, Customer Satisfaction or Social CRM – Yes!
Customer Service is not only about one technology; it is about the set of technologies you will need to bring your business into the modern age. It is about starting with a clear and concise vision of the service experience you intend to deliver to your customers. In order to accomplish this, you do need to understand your customer needs and how your customers seek value. It is clearly, the ‘Jobs to be done approach’. These types of activities are very different from mapping internal business processes to look for efficiency. Evaluating your technology stack, with your customer service experience lens, is an important exercise. Everything you do should begin with a strong foundation. We all learned these lessons from very early on; from education, to athletics and yes, even business.
The Innovative part of the Technology Ecosystem
Whether it is Facebook or Twitter; Linkedin, Quora or FourSquare the activity that is important to you is, or will be, happening on a platform, through a channel, right in front of you, where you can’t get to it. The social media platforms, as they have become to be known, are where customers are, so your organization has to go there. But, which ones? Will this answer change in a week, a month, a year? The fact is that these external forces are part of your business, which you will fight to control (technologically and process wise) and will fail, thus figure out how to leverage and embrace them, not fight them. These platforms represent your ability, your advantage to innovate and transform your business.
Your ability to control which channels and technologies your customers use is long past. Is it possible that your best and most powerful long-term strategy is the ability to make tactical decisions faster than your customers expect (exceed expectations)? Does responsiveness outweigh the business value of implementation via a coordinated, planned and sustainable architecture — or not? In any case, the framework suggested allows for varying rates of change across layers; what was yesterday’s innovation, might just become tomorrow’s differentiators (not to confuse too much).
Coming full circle; The ability to provide customer service excellence is achieved by a harmonious dance between the people, processes and technologies supporting every modern business. These are the core building blocks making up the foundation of all world-class customer service organizations. Does this sound like your kind of customer service? – It should and it can! Remember, customer service experience is the customer’s perspective, in response to your efforts. Be sure that the customer’s perspective is all that you want it to be.
This is Part two of a two part series. The first in the series; Creating Graceful and Rewarding Customer Service Experiences can be found on the Sword Ciboodle sponsored Under The C, blog.
We (Julie Hunt and myself) explored these points, looking at them from many different perspectives – having fun along the way. The detailed thoughts are shared in a White Paper titled “The Total Customer Service Experience”. If you would like to receive the full version of the white paper, please just let us know. No registration forms, just send us an email – firstname.lastname@example.org, and we would be happy to forward along a copy.
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- The Evolution of Customer Community
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