Sunday, March 27, 2011

Technology Is Killing Customer Service

What? That is outrageous you say? I first want to apologize for all those reading this that are under age 35. You have no idea what customer service excellence is because frankly, you haven't seen it.
You never experienced having someone pump your gas, check your oil and tire pressure and clean your windshield. 

You never experienced getting your ticket fast and efficiently from a trained ticket agent wearing a pressed suit and starched shirt or blouse.   Today, you are forced to navigae a kiosk and if you need help you might find a baggage handler who doubles as a agent.
You never experienced calling a business and actually have someone answer the phone right away -- someone that actually worked at the company you called and could answer your question about the company's product or service without having to forward you to another department.

You never experienced checking out and having someone thank you for shopping with them rather than them saying "yup", "no problem" or nothing at all.

Technology has replaced good old fashioned customer service. This includes CRM packages, IVR phone systems, online chat, FAQ's, hidden telephone numbers (so you actually can't call a company), kiosks to purchase tickets at airports or subways, self service gas where in minus 10 below you need to answer a series of questions about credit or debit, car wash (Y or N), receipt (Y or N) before you can pump and on and on.

All these technologies have one purpose - to reduce cost by eliminating labor. As a result, customer service has suffered. Many of the technologies are useful and helpful, they just shouldn't replace a real live, knowledgeable person.

With the advent of the internet beginning in 1994, the slope of decline in customer service grew steeper. A few companies have recognized that they can use customer service excellence as a key differentiator. They view it as a marketing investment, not a cost center.

Like everything in business, the pendulum experiences large swings. I believe we are at the point where customer service has become so poor, that it will start moving in the other direction. What is lacking is sufficient numbers of highly trained individuals who can actually interface with consumers in person or over the phone.

Just last week for example, I was checking out of a Target and when I received my receipt and change I instinctively said "thank you". The clerk responded with "yup, no problem". How pathetic is that?

The new book Negotiate Anything! is the culmination of a 30 year longitudinal study of customer service in the U.S. by Tom and Lynn Wilson - the first of its kind.  It presents the 12 Success Criteria businesses must implement to make customer service a key growth driver. They used their learning to form The CareGiver Partnership, a national direct to consumer retailer of a wide range of home medical supplies.

To learn more, go to

It is also available at Amazon , Barnes & Noble

For a Free eBook copy in all formats, visit

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