A simple enough combination of two words. Customer. Service. Yet what it involves / includes / encompasses is monumental. A multi-layered, multi-pronged, complex and often hackneyed term. And, more often than not, misunderstood.
Apart from a warm smile and a kind gesture, effective customer service requires multiple support structures / processes / props and braces, some of which are pointed out below.
- Workload assessments
- Service standards manuals
- Clearly articulated CS strategy (Aligned with organizational objectives)
- Clear and transparent criteria for success
- Metrics for measuring success
- Transparent performance management systems
- Rewards & recognition schemes
- Suggestion schemes (with prizes) for staff buy-in / engagement
- Effective complaint management systems
- Empowered employees
- TAT (Turnaround times)
- SLA’s (Service level agreements between departments)
- Capture / assessment methodologies (customer surveys / Mystery shopping etc.)
- Second layer aspects (Caught you awards/Grievance policies/engagement surveys etc.)
- Creation of a CS playbook (Stories/experiences/solutions/best practices etc. to be exchanged / shared)
- Customer surveys (Voice Of the Customer – VOC)
- Employee surveys
- Top-down support
- Process mapping / Re-engineering
- Customer journey mapping etc. etc.
There may be over 40-50 such support structures / processes that could be deployed to ensure success.
In the end, a human touch, deftly applied. An empathetic, emotionally intelligent approach deployed by empowered employees. A personal connection. These 3, done well, could trump the other issues. After all, the mortal connection is far more conclusive than slightly challenging external factors. We assume here that the other aspects are not extreme enough (expectedly) to negate all else. Which is usually the case. Thus the focus on the human touch and the customer service training aspects for front line individuals and so on. If all else fails, the human connect is key.
The current environment puts a consequential spin on all this. The digital revolution has arrived. Virtually every business has had to re-invent themselves and move onto the digital superhighway. Under these circumstances, the human touch, the personal attention & the empathy once so valuable, may not come through. This change is severe and brutally applied. It was thrust upon us in one sudden jerk. Adapt or die was the line. Given this predicament we all found ourselves in a bind and adapting was the first step. Now, we must look at making it our own. Several opportunities exist, including utilizing AI (Artificial intelligence), creating platforms that connect people (Providing face to face interaction capabilities) etc.
From banks to fast food outlets, far too many businesses are closing down their bricks & mortar outlets and going digital. The trend is surely a digital future. Humanizing tech will be the new frontier, ensuring a competitive edge and a human interaction capability, albeit, digitally.
A factor that is hindering effective tech push is the global computer literacy rates. Studies have come up with figures that defy logic, given that we are in 2022. Findings about distribution of computer skills amongst people aged 16-65 evidenced that Approx. 60% + were either not able to use a computer, or terrible at it or very poor at it. Adoption of new tech is in high gear whereas computer literacy rates are not keeping up. The good news is that these numbers are improving. And improving fast. Adding to this uptick is that tech is becoming increasingly easy to use. Voice commands, hand gestures, auto setups for pre-determined outcomes etc. are all making it easier by the day.
Yet another factor that is coming into the fore is that most everyone who works for an organization will be pulled into 2 or 3 segments (Sales / Customer Service / Digital). This puts critical importance on these 3 segments. Everyone must be involved, trained and ready in at least one of the 3 segments mentioned above.
The customer service future looks set to be digital. A sea change from the face to face of the past. The digital future itself is unclear. Changes are coming at us at the speed of light. New advanced autonomous tech, AI, computing speeds via quantum computing and nano tech etc. The global digital shift and health-conscious distancing / lockdowns and quarantines all add up to a very different service landscape. A re-imagining of sorts. New checklists, new approaches and new interactive paradigms are needed. Customer journey mapping, touch points tracking, success measurement metrics, employee empowerment etc. all need to be re-visited. Digital wins need to be fused with human aspects for a competitive edge.
Human centered AI, AI enabled interactive toolkits, chatbots, inter-connectivity enabled AI, Omni-channel services, broad based customer retention and employee empowerment strategies and AI infused instant contact connectivity will all be playing substantial roles sooner rather than later.
Keeping humans in the loop and not going the full AI route may be the key. The evolution of AI must include humans and human interactivity. Tech should be a support / prop. Humanity must prevail.
Uzair Hassan CEO, 3H Solutions Group