It wasn’t that long ago when, in order to save money, many companies made the decision to outsource their customer service centers to third-party organizations.
However, the benefits (primarily cost-based) of automating or outsourcing seemed to be heavily skewed in favor of the company, rather than what their customers expected. It wasn’t long before customers reacted to how they felt they were being treated – and voted with their wallets.
The Decline Of Outsourced Customer Services
The error lay in assuming that such customer services could be commoditized – that engagement could be scripted, and distributed by external resources. Regardless of whether that’s true or not, the fundamental flaw lay in the fact that customers expected the relationship that they formed with the brand to continue throughout every facet of any subsequent interaction. No matter how good the outsourced supplier was, there was no longer the perception of a common vested interest – the product or service that’s been sold – between the two parties.
The result is not only a reversion to past (in-house) practices, but a total about-face in terms of how companies view the privacy element of the customer service relationship.
Thanks to social media channels, organizations have the opportunity to bring back the personal element of customer service. In the old days, you could phone up Joe whom (you felt) knew your situation personally and you liked speaking with. Today, you have the opportunity to Tweet @Joe and get a reply. While the channels of interaction have changed, the element of personal engagement doesn’t have to.
So, does that mean that everyone who has a customer-facing element to their job should have a social media presence? Absolutely! Why should everyone hide behind a single [email protected] email address, or a @customerservice Twitter handle? You give out your name when someone calls you, so why shouldn’t you do the same in the social space? Every interaction is personal, unique and different. Social media doesn’t have to change that (in fact, it shouldn’t).
Of course, the big difference between speaking to someone on the telephone and conversing using social media is the issue of privacy. In most cases customer services takes place behind the scenes, so moving to such a public approach is a complete U-turn for pretty much every company. I’m guessing that many companies would be uncomfortable having such a public forum for their customer services.
But why? Isn’t having a public platform to show how an organization addresses issues a good thing? Doesn’t it, by its very existence and recognition within the company, breed a better product or service?
Oh, and if you need your customer service to stay private because there’s a bunch of things wrong with your product or service that you don’t want others to know about, then you’ve got bigger problems that you can possibly imagine, my friend.
Customer service is going through a revolution, in terms of engagement channels as well as its very perception within the company. The importance – and visibility – of a company’s customer service division is only going to grow in importance, as customers continue to look for differentiation.
As a company’s customer service presence grows on social media channels, it seems inevitable that Customer Service becomes seen within the organization as being part of Marketing – which, in reality, it always has been. I wouldn’t be surprised if we didn’t start to see ‘Chief Customer Officer’ job titles before long – assuming that they haven’t started to appear already.