A few weeks ago, I was talking with some friends about some of their most memorable customer experiences. My buddy Seth shared a story that was so good, he’s been thinking about it since the late 70s:
When I was four years old, there was a toothpaste with Bugs Bunny on it-Fruity flavor; I loved it. The following year, the company changed the formula and it became mint flavored. I was devastated. My mother and I found the address on the box and wrote a letter explaining my disappointment. We crossed our fingers, hoping someone would read my letter and consider bringing back the fruity flavor. About eight weeks later, a suitcase arrived addressed to me: 50 tubes of fruity flavor Bugs Bunny toothpaste. Can you even imagine? A suitcase full of toothpaste! After that, I never saw anything but minty flavor at the store again; and by the time I got through all 50 tubes, Crest and the cavity creeps marketing team had invaded Saturday morning cartoon commercials. And while fruity toothpaste became less of a concern for me, I’ve never forgotten the experience.
Somewhere in our lifetime, there was a shift. Customer service (CS) shifted to customer experience (CX), marketing strategy shifted from testimonial and celebrity endorsement to data-backed analytics and help shifted to support. Big box went to big tech as retail gave way to online. The anonymity of the web gave both the end user and the service representative permission to treat the other as disposable.
Customer service was never supposed to exist. In a perfect world nothing would break, everyone would be able to log in, and products would last forever. It’s an odd dynamic when it actually costs less to send a brand-new product (or a suitcase of it) than to triage the problem, diagnose the options and ultimately repair customer trust. Along the way, we’ve let the bean counters run the service strategy. CX fails when it’s not part of the organizational culture; and that’s not an easy sell. It requires the participation of the entire company and goes from top down as well as the bottom up.
Service and support are vital appendages of CX. Removing a customers’ ability to reach out to an actual person is always short sighted and misdirected. When CX is based entirely on trust, your customer trusts that you provide the goods and services you say that you do. You trust that the customer will choose your goods and services if they fit the need and the niche. Sometimes, trust is earned instantly – a customer sees your product advertised or promoted and wants to try it – but the most valuable trust is earned over time and evolves into loyalty. Part of this trust earned is a question of strategy. If your strategy is to minimize overhead, then you certainly wouldn’t invest in service and support. We’ve seen this pre- and post-pandemic with companies across the board with relative profits soaring. Meanwhile, customer satisfaction has not.
Even the companies that did have CS strategy had trouble keeping people in those positions. Who can blame them? In the age of social and the potential of creating a viral sensation, customers know that the way to get what they want is to go overboard or catch an employee backpedaling or being misinformed. Frustration gives way to disrespect and carelessness on both ends – CX devolves into chaos and disrepair. This erosion of trust between business and consumer is unsettling, but we might not see it from looking simply at the numbers.
2023 seeks to tell a different story. Last year’s Consumer Index Report was revealing. With consumer confidence plummeting across industries as well as platforms, call centers are poised to do something radical: lead the shift back to service. The experiment has run its course. As voice, live agent and chat take on more complicated tasks, the investment in our agents becomes absolutely necessary. Improvements in training, incentives, technology, and culture are fueling the resurgence and driving a return to elevate call center ethos. Are you ready?
Download the 7th Annual Consumer Index Report to read the key findings.
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