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Customer service: Investing in a personal approach

“Please place item in the bagging area” – you place the item – the command repeats. You lift and replace the item – “please place item in the bagging area” – you turn for help and there’s no one there.

“We regret to advise that your imminent flight has been cancelled [therefore ruining your long anticipated travel plans]. Your refund is being processed and attached is a nominal voucher [so don’t contact us, but please book with us again].”

We have all experienced the frustration and helplessness at the hands of impersonal, robotic ‘customer services’ as organisations turn to technology to eliminate traditional human interaction and cut costs. But have they gone to far? Have businesses failed to understand that as much as food is the product of the supermarket and the flight is the product of the airline – so is their service?

In an interview with Fortune, Jim Bush, American Express EVP of world service said “there’s a tendency to see service as a sunk cost – the customer is reaching out to you. So people say, ‘it’s a cost. Let’s look to eliminate it.’ Every one of those moments of truth is an opportunity to make a difference to customers in a personalised way.”

The result of this trend away from a personalised approach is that businesses are drifting unwillingly into ‘reactive’ customer services and receiving nothing in return. Except damage. Throwing technology back in the face of businesses, consumers are finding ways to shout louder in the public arena. In an all too common scenario, the customer who fails to adequately connect with a business, turns to social media. At this point, it’s ‘all hands on deck’ – we’ve all seen it.

Here, the business has been forced to deal with the customer in a more personal way, yet the customer will still walk away disgruntled having tarnished the business’ reputation in the process.

With 92% of consumers believing recommendations from friends and family over all forms of advertising according to Nielsen, the quality of customer service is arguably as big of a drawcard as the quality of products or services offered. With loyal customers and word-of-mouth marketers up for grabs, a more personalised approach from the outset might just be worth investing in.

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Daniel Jacobs

Daniel Jacobs

Daniel Jacobs was editor of Dynamic Business.

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