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Customer Service and The Human Experience
Historically, customer service was delivered over the phone or in person. Customers didn’t have many choices, and switching to competitors was cumbersome. Today, these methods are but two of the many possible touch points of entry for any given interaction. With all the options the Internet brings, competition is literally a click away. If, as has been reported, 65% of your business comes from current customers, then in order to stay in business, you best focus on winning the satisfaction and loyalty of those customers.
While much attention has been focused on the technology and benefits of providing multiple channels for customer contact, little consideration has been directed to handling the human part of the equation—training employees to field more than just telephone communications. With the explosion of e-commerce, the need to reinforce keeping the human element in the equation is paramount. Certainly now more than ever before in history, customer-centric service is a necessity.
Twenty five years from now customers will still be human beings, still be driven by desires and needs. Virtual environments do not create virtual customers. Except for the simplest transactions, some customers still need to be connected with and nurtured by a live person. Amazon.com has learned this. They employ hundreds of traditional customer service representatives using phone lines to help customers with questions that cannot be dealt with online.
With the ability to handle simple transactions available by using sophisticated, self-service technology, customer calls, faxes, and/or e-mails are more complex, more complicated, sometime even escalated, heightening stress levels.
At the same time, research has identified the Customer Service and Technical Service Representative as one of the ten most stressful jobs in America today, with job stress costing employers an estimated 0+ billion yearly in absenteeism, lowered productivity, rising health insurance costs and other medical expenses (up from 0 + billion just ten years ago.) A recent NIOSH study reported that 50% of employees view job stress as a major problem in their lives--double from a decade ago.
Lines of demarcation have blurred and change is rampant in today’s center. Why? Because of our cell phones, voice mail, faxback, PDA’s, and e-mail. We are now more available and accessible than ever before. The lines are no longer clear as to where our jobs or projects begin and end—they can follow us home again and again.
In today’s competitive marketplace there is little difference between products and services. What makes the difference--what distinguishes one company from another--is its relationship with the customer. Who has the awesome responsibility for representing themselves, their companies, perhaps their industry in general? Front line representatives.
The ability of a company to provide human-to-human connections--back and forth live communication--continues to be critically important. The fact is voice is the most natural and powerful human interface, real time or otherwise. That isn’t going to change any time soon. To the customer, people are inseparable from the services they provide. Actually, the person on the other end of the phone is the company. It is no wonder, then, that companies with superior people management, invest heavily in training and retraining, reinforcing the human element.
Yet customers still leave. The latest statistics on why are:
• 45% because of poor service
• 20% because of lack of attention.
This means that 65% of your customers leave because of something your front line is, or is not, doing.
• 15% for a better product
• 15% for a cheaper product and
• 5% other
This is the good and the bad news. It’s bad news because that’s a high percentage. On the other hand, it’s good news because there is something you can do about it—it resides on the human side.
Never lose sight of the fact that we are human beings, not merely ‘human doings.’ The fact is 70% to 90% of what happens with customers is driven by human nature, having nothing to do with technology. Technology is meant to enable human endeavors, not to disable them.
One of the most influential documents in the world, the U.S. Constitution, begins with "We, the people..." Yes, ‘we the people’ are what makes the difference.
About the Author: Rosanne D'Ausilio, Ph.D., industrial psychologist, master trainer, best selling author, is president of Human Technologies Global Inc, a full service training organization specializing in human performance management providing needs assessments, instructional design, and live, customized, world class customer service skills training across industries. Also offered is university certification of agents and/or facilitators from Purdue University's Center for Customer Driven Quality.
Known in the industry as the 'champion for the human,' Rosanne is the author of Wake Up Your Call Center: Humanize Your Interaction Hub, 4th edition, Customer Service and The Human Experience (co authored with Dr. Jon Anton), and her latest Lay Your Cards on the Table: 52 Ways to Stack Your Personal Deck (now with a 32-card deck) all available at www.human-technologies.com. New is her 'tips' newsletter on How To Kick Your Customer Service Up A Notch at www.HumanTechTips.com.
She sits on the advisory board of Help Desk Professional Association, is a columnist for TMCnet.com on Call Center Training, and represnts the human element for an Italian Software Company's advisory board, as well as being a dynamic, much sought after keynote speaker.