Managing Customer Service In The Age Of Instant Gratification

Long waits navigating a never-ending sea of voicemail prompts, frustration trying to find help with web forums, and repeated emails to customer support that never seem to go anywhere. Of all the things technology has helped businesses do better, customer service usually isn’t at the top of the list. If it could be automated, outsourced, or avoided altogether, companies would usually find a way to do it. Until social media started to make that virtually impossible.

Like a next generation call center, customers now look to social media as a direct line to customer service. Beyond just a platform for being heard, along with it also comes the increasing and often unrealistic expectation that they will receive an instantaneous response. That can be extremely difficult to manage even for large companies with dedicated resources to monitor and manage social chatter and next to impossible for smaller businesses who often lack some of the same resources but are still forced to manage the same unrealistic expectations.

The way we think about customer service and the traditional contact center is evolving. Customers want (and expect) a seamless customer experience and that means you’ve got to understand who they are, where they live, and they want to interact. That means you need to find the right staff, the right strategy, and the right technologies to monitor and respond to customers in a matter of minutes if not sooner.

You’ve got to be able to cut through all of the noise to be able to immediately identify issues based on their relevance and sentiment. Just because someone is tweeting about an apple doesn’t mean they’re referring to Apple Corporation. They could have had an apple for breakfast and wanted to share that with the world. Likewise, if they are frustrated, you’ve got to determine how frustrated and plan your response strategy accordingly. You need to build context around how happy (or how unhappy) they are by looking for keywords and indicators (i.e., the last 10 tweets contained x number of curse words). From there you need to figure out what that means and determine what you want to do about it.

But although social is undoubtedly going to be a big part of your customer experience management strategy, it can’t be the only part. Expectations have changed and the bar is only getting higher. Customers have a preference as to how they would like to interact with your company and it’s up to you to make sure you have the right systems in place to accommodate them. Social media, phone support, web forums, direct messages, and web chats might appear as separate channels, but customers are starting to see them as one.

According to Laura Bassett, director of marketing for customer experience and emerging technology at Avaya, managing customer service and expectations all comes down to having the right strategy in place. “Beyond just responding to a tweet, companies need to be able to truly understand their customers, their interactions and transaction history, and be able to immediately identify the right touch points inside of their organizations to make sure their issues are successfully resolved.” In other words, whether you’re in the business of business communications like Avaya, or you’re in an entirely different industry or sector, you need to get back to the fundamentals of what it takes to consistently deliver exceptional customer experiences.

Managing customer service in an age of instant social media gratification means you’ve got to have the right technologies, the right people and the right plan in place. Making customers wait on hold for 20 minutes, hiding phone number on company website, and ignoring emails to customer service is no longer going to cut it. Customers want a response and, good or bad, they want it immediately (if not sooner).

—Shawn Graham is a marketing and brand strategist for startups and small businesses. Find Shawn at shawngraham.me or continue the conversation on Twitter.

[Image: Flickr user Pete Prodoehl]

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1 Comments

  • Robert Bacal

    I agree with you about the instant gratification, and impatience, but I see that happening everywhere in society -- by automobile drivers, for example. However, I think you assume that because the bar of what customers say they want is higher (and it is), that they will actually behave differently, and refuse to do business with companies that don't hit that bar. I don't think that's the case.
    To highlight this issue, I wrote a quick post entitled, 
    What do angry customers do if they are unsatisfied?
    located at: http://angrycustomer.org/faq/i...

    I'd be interested in comments.