Thinking about improving customer service or customer experience? Don’t forget the simple things.

squircle old phone

I’m a subscriber to The Economist, not because I have a background in economics or because I used to work for part of The Economist Group, a number of years ago. I’m a subscriber because I like the magazine, their reportage, their style but not all of their opinions.

However, from time to time they do come out with the most pithy and sobering of pieces and thoughts. One such piece came out a few issues ago in the Schumpeter column titled: The magic of good service. It’s subtitle was: “Companies hope that ‘chief customer officers’ will provide better service. Yeah, right.” I’d encourage you to go and read it and the lively debate and the customer service “feedback” that The Economist gets in the comments.

Back to the column which starts by saying:

“THE customer is king. So some firms have started appointing chief customer officers (CCOs) to serve the king more attentively. These new additions to the (already crowded) C-suite are supposed to look at the business from the customer’s point of view. They try to focus on the entire “customer experience”, rather than on individual transactions.”

The column goes on to try and pour ‘cold water’ on much of what is written in Harley Manning and Kerry Bodine’s new book: Inside Out (see my interview with Kerry Bodine here). That all feels a little “Bah, humbug!” However, it does finish with a pithy thought:

“Phone a firm that has appointed a chief customer officer and see if you can reach a human being. If not, that CCO might as well be tossed from an executive-floor window, no doubt clutching his collection of “journey maps” and “customer archetypes”.

Now, I believe, technology can solve many of our problems, much of the time. But, as the column implies, there will be times that we just want to reach out to another human, to have someone to talk to, who will listen and who will help. That may be a little old-school or old-fashioned but we are human and we like human contact, particularly at times when we are unsure, at risk, nervous, feeling vulnerable etc etc.

So, if you are thinking about developing, revamping, reinventing, remapping or whatever you plan on doing to your customer experience in the near future………..Try not to build a system which focuses on how you would like the customer to interact with you, build one, instead, based on how the customer would like to interact with you.

That is likely to include some face to face contact or the ability to speak to speedily speak to someone on the phone, depending on your business model. You may not like it and it may not be the most cost-effective method of delivering service. But, your customers are your customers and they know what they like, when they like it.

Peter Drucker said it best when he said:

“The purpose of business is to create and keep a customer.”

It’s good to remember that sometimes the simplest of things can really help us keep our customers.

Thanks to zen for the image.

22 comments On Thinking about improving customer service or customer experience? Don’t forget the simple things.

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  • Adrian

    I am with you, all the technology should help humans not hinder them. And if it doesn’t help them connect with another human if they want to, then it isn’t worth the investment.

    On the subject of investments, I like the new look.


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  • Hello Adrian,
    I also read this piece found it to be both interesting, pithy and completely on target. It occurs to me that adding a chief customer officer into the mix and expecting that this will turn a short-term product/sales focused company into a customer centric one is rather like adding wings call to a frigate in the expectation that this will turn the frigate into a F16 fighter jet.

    Why fine to me truly sad is that as customers we are looking for humanity, that personal touch: companies that show up as caring for us as flesh and blood fellow human beings. Instead we have management wishes relentlessly replacing humanity with impersonal technology designed to save costs. Put differently there is a lack of integrity between the words and the action.

    Hi thank you for your post and bringing the issue to the forefront so that we can discuss it and moving from the dark into the light.

    At your service and with my love,

    • Hi Maz,
      I am glad that you enjoyed the post and to hear that we share the same concerns. Here’s another post on a related matter from David Armano that I think you’ll like too: Technology Will Only Solve 1/3 of Your Social Business Problem


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  • I’m all for technology and think it has improved our lives in ways we couldn’t even imagine 20 or 30 years ago – but I have to agree with the Economist article when it says overall customer experience suffers from cost-cutting measures like automated phone answering systems.

    And it has nothing to do with fuzzy notions of ‘finding comfort in talking to a real person’ or anything like that. To put it simply, when I’m talking to a real person I can get my questions answered and referred to the appropriate department much faster than when I have to sit and wait for the robot on the other end to read out the menu for the fifth time.

    • Hi Alex,
      You make a great point about speed of routing and decision-making when talking to a real person. However, I would disagree with you that some people do take comfort from talking to a real person particularly depending on who they are, how old they are and what situation they find themselves in. But, to disagree is human and all part of life’s rich pageant. 😉


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  • Hi there just wanted to give you a quick heads up and let
    you know a few of the images aren’t loading properly. I’m not
    sure why but I think its a linking issue. I’ve tried it in two different web browsers and both show the same results.

    • Thanks for letting me know. I’ll have a look but it’s most likely a linking issue that dates back to when I had to rebuild the site.

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