Serving Customers in a Digital Era

In Accenture's 2013 Global Consumer Pulse survey we started to see the consequence of thinking traditional in a digital world. A massive 66% of respondents said they have switched brands in the past twelve months purely do to poor customer service. A numbers that continues to grow year on year. Is this due to a competency gap on behalf of the brands or a switch in consumer loyalty?

For those of you that know me, you'd see frequent frustrations with customer service by traditional organisations that lack coherence, consistency and effectiveness in delivering customer service. I'm often blown away by how naive a brand can be to the impact poor service can have on their brand's reputation in the socially connected economy.

Of the 66% in Accenture's survey, an over whelming 82% said they were aware of a way the company could have done something to stop them switching. Many quoting sources such as contacts on social media, introducing the concept of social comparison of services.

Here's the thing. Mistakes can be opportunities, often golden ones that turn frustrated customers into passion advocates. Here's why. Studies show that a satisfied customer will tell 2-3 people about his positive customer service experience with your company. While, a dissatisfied consumer will share their frustration with 8-10 people and some will push that number to twenty. But this trends pre-date our nativity in social media. So today, the suggested frustration magnification is closer to 100, with more influential people easily reaching 1000s.

In a digital world, many brands rushed to 'optimize' through technology, often neglecting the human element in service delivery optimisation and segregating the customer facing into silos. Something User Experience and Design agencies have been try to combat over the past few years.

Far too many of the frustrated customers quote scenarios like 'having to repeat their situation as they are transferred from department to department' or worse, learning that face to face outlets have zero visibility of online or remote service channels. Leaving the customer to play the case manager role in resolving their own issue. Is it any wonder why they turn to social media to express their frustration?

In a world were a comparison is only a Google search away, brands need to consider deeply the consequence of leaving customers frustrated or unfulfilled. As each of these experiences snowballs the brands reputation in the socially connected economy. Taking the brand service message out of the hands of marketing or public relations teams, flipping it into a true two way dialogue about the brand.

The key to overcoming these pitfalls is to understand that all facets of the business plug into a larger experience in the consumers life. The example I frequently quote is;

Nobody buys a mortgage... people buy a home. And the process of buying a home is far broader than the application and approval of the mortgage

Companies like Google and Amazon that the time prior and post a transaction contain valuable insights into adding value beyond the product, and often lifts the perspective of the organisation to between understand the various interactions a customer goes through in that experience.

If more companies thought at the experience level, gaps in process, procedure and policy would be obvious opportunities to develop competitive advantage.

What are your best and worst experiences with customer service?