Customer Service in the Digital Age

You might have noticed that more and more corporations are digitalizing their customer service process. For instance, through e-mail forms on their websites, web chats etc. Is this really beneficial to the end user or is it merely a cost saving?

 

With (online) technology advancing and resulting in the digitalization of the economy, I sometimes wonder: why are companies choosing a web based way of communication with their customers? It is probably cheaper than having people talk over the phone, I presume. What happened to the conversation that you – as a product or service provider – want to have with your customer? A dialogue with the most important asset a company has! Why cutting out that means of communication that actually provides the opportunity to start a dialogue with your clientele. Some might say that a dialogue can take place through e-mail – or any other form of written communication for that matter – as well. No! It is not the same, and let me tell you why.

"you can’t do business unless you have met them, that is: in person."First of all, there is no real interaction, no personal contact. Personal contact is such an important feature in business. When I was in my first job my manager once said: “you can’t do business unless you have met them”, that is: in person. Ever since I was told this and as I was moving on in my career, the more I realized that this is so true. Now, this is another setting indeed, but the bottom line remains the same. You should interact with your customers, so that you exactly know what the problem is. And, what else might be bothering them.

Lots of consumers – including myself – love interaction with real people. People who actually talk. They want to have the feeling of being heard and that the person on the other side of the line is going to solve their problem. Nowadays, this service is decreasingly common. With products more technologically equipped than ever. Hence, it is quite obvious that consumers need support. Okay, you are right by saying that a lot of stuff can be found on the web, but in the end it all comes down to a simple explanation to people with little or no knowledge about the technology or complexity of today’s products and services. In addition, real people have experiences themselves too. Or they could tell you about the experiences of other consumers and the solution(s) provided.

Another big advantage of interacting with your customers and users is that this conversation might even offer you something as a company. Every single interaction with a user of your product or service provides you with the opportunity to actually find out what is going on in the mind of the customer. What other problems is he experiencing or what other needs might he have? Which products from your product line or maybe another product line could solve these problems or fulfill the need? Isn’t that what the existence of your company is all about? Fulfilling the needs of your customers. And yet, there is another way to benefit from the conversation you are having with your beloved customer. The feedback you receive with regards to the product/service can even help you improve the it! Are there any bugs to be resolved, any improvements on the usability perhaps? All opportunities.

For me personally, customer service should by all means be, having a – real – conversation. Whether it be over the phone, in person or any other form of direct and live communication. I hear you say: “chat functions are live communications as well”. Okay, I agree. But then again, by chatting you cannot spur emotion by the tone of someone’s voice. The buying process – which of course also includes after sales – is about emotion and experience. In fact, that is in my opinion why people still go to retail stores and do not buy everything available online, from a webshop. People want to experience the product, the look and feel, the fit etc. I have to agree with you here that, this also depends on the product you are buying. But that is a another topic.

To conclude my post, I would like to give you some proof that customer service and interaction over the phone actually works. The experience I had lately actually led to me writing this post. About a week or two ago I called the customer service of a software provider, because I was not able to activate my trial version of the product. They tried finding out what had gone wrong with the account that was associated with my download, but they did not succeed in doing so. The customer service representative provided the solution of purchasing the software contract for a year with the possibility to cancel in the coming two weeks. If I would not cancel and stick to the contract I would get a discount on the annual price. We agreed, and so everybody was happy. In my opinion this is the perfect example of how both parties can benefit from a real conversation. An issue with another product of theirs I have still not reported. The reason? Customer service is done… by e-mail.

What are your thoughts on customer service and the ongoing digitalization, web care etc.?

 

5 april 2017