If it is true that relationships are the new marketing, then customer service is way up there in term of importance. Thanks to an array of more affordable technology, individuals who have access to tools are now able to participate in and drive where business is going next.
the basic concept is simple. Networks are central to everything significant in technology today. There are physical networks (the Internet, the telephone system, wireless links), virtual communications networks (Skype, Fon), social networks (MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn), advertiser networks (Google AdSense), information networks (Digg, Craigslist, Wikipedia), and video content networks (YouTube, Joost), to name just a few. Not to mention networks of organizations, of systems, and of people (like the Supernova community itself).
So if our work of the future looks more like a way of life in times past – communities and networks (which include virtual) where individuals seek a higher level of interaction – what does the new customer service look like?
Will the network service itself? Satisfaction thinks so. They are launching their first service community as we speak. I like the virtual component of this conversation, it supports greater diversity and potentially faster integration of many of the tools we know and use today.
Is the self service nature of business going a bit too far or not far enough? For example, I was at an IKEA store the other day and noticed that they have now installed many do it yourself cash registers. In fact, at the time I made my purchases, only one cash register was manned. This used to look new and interesting in supermarkets and home building materials superstores. I’ve now noticed that people tend to use them less.
At that point do these self help tools gain a utility beyond just convenience to become examples of how to do things differently? For example, should we be able to create our own products and grocery lists off screens as we enter the store? What would happen if everyone ordered this way? Would stores be able to stock only what is needed? A kind of on demand purchasing, just like technology.
What would happen to marketing and brands then? Would we stop making packaging so redundant because it now doesn’t double as in store advertising? If we didn’t have to stock shelves in a physical store, then could we divert some of the energy and care to servicing customers?
On the other hand, if the network takes care of itself, where do companies fit in? I think that companies now face a choice – they can either continue to cut back or they can reverse the trend and decide to validate their customers’ purchases. In my example at IKEA it would have been nice to have had someone at the cash register say something like, “those candles look very nice with the holders you picked!”
Is the lack of contact and conversation equivalent to leaving the loop and the network open?
What’s your experience? Do you want more human contact or do you prefer to transact your business by yourself? Do you prefer both under different circumstances?