Competition, employee expectations define 2020s ‘customer service’

Given my firm belief that customer service encompasses every element of company performance—including employee acknowledgment and respect—the coming decade will focus squarely on competition for the best treatment both of customers and employees.

Companies dedicated to both will continue to grow. Companies ignoring either will find themselves looking up at their competitors.

A November Forbes.com article addresses both issues: “Increased competition = improved customer experienceCustomer experience (CX) has also grown in importance for businesses over the past decade, in part because increased competition has meant that companies have had to focus on keeping customers satisfied and loyal…Companies are now, finally starting to put their CX data to good use. Rather than sitting idly in a repository, data can now be analyzed by affordable tools in such detail that tangible improvements can actually be implemented within areas of a business, helping to increase revenue and profits as a result.”

The article continues: “Leaders need to be prepared for the employees of the future having entirely different expectations of work – they won’t want to stay in stressful jobs and they will demand a much better work-life balance – which in turn will require new leadership approaches.”

What are key takeaways from all this?

  1. Keeping customers happy and loyal won’t be about phony, grandiose gestures and self-aggrandizing promotions. Ability to provide top-notch treatment of customers will occur in the trenches. Day-to-day transactions, a culture of excellence and models that reward customer reps for making the supreme effort with customers will replace the current “get them off the phone as fast as possible” practice that characterizes too many companies.
  2. While technology enhancements will be key to providing superior customer service, high-touch must keep pace with high-tech. If today’s sometimes-balky tech protocols have demonstrated anything, it’s that real people need to back up all that technology. Offering high-tech customer service avenues and using high-tech customer data mining to better understand and appeal to customers is valuable, but everyone has preferences about how and how often they want to communicate. Making sure that individual preferences are accounted for, in everything from frequency of messaging to ways of connecting (e.g., phone, email, text, chat bots), will be the differentiator between so-so and stellar customer service.
  3. Employees will rule. They must be treated like gold. Otherwise, they will find competitors who will. The consequent cost to companies of continual rehiring, retraining and retaining will continue to skyrocket. Combined loss of productivity, morale and money inherent in poor employee retention will destroy companies unable or unwilling to make a supreme commitment to employees.
  4. All of this is based to a great extent in common sense. Treating people well, using sincere and caring techniques, is not generally rocket science. It all goes back to liking, trusting and respecting. When all three are in place, good things follow.

As technology and customer expectations evolve, so will customer service practices and commitments. Every indication points to increasing emphasis on keeping customers happy to keep the business going. Companies that go all in will survive and increasingly thrive. Those that don’t, even the ones that are “too big to fail,” face major loss of revenues and ultimately, extinction. Given their consummate emphasis on total customer service, such companies as Costco, Amazon and Southwest Airlines likely will continue to soar. Behemoths like Comcast and United Airlines, on the other hand, will see their customer bullying tactics backfire and customers run for the exits.

Do you have customer service snafus or stellar experiences to share? If so, feel free to comment on this post or email your thoughts to mark@marklusky.com.

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Mark Lusky is a veteran writer, storyteller and author, with 40+ years of public relations, advertising, marketing and journalism experience.

Author of A Wandering Wondering Jew… and co-author of Don’t Get Mad, Get Leverage,  Mark (aka The Happy Curmudgeon) is the owner of a Denver-based marketing communications firm.

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