Bottom(s) Up!

“Really good customer service is rare? Why, because it’s personalised and appropriate, non-standard, sometimes time consuming, interactive and individualised rather than transactional?”

The heart of customer service is at the frontline, but that frontline is blurring into multiple contact points.

You’ve already made up your mind you want or need something, perhaps to solve a problem you’ve got: a leaky pipe, you’re cold or hungry, you want to get someplace on your own set of wheels, you’re tired of your hair. But you’re not exactly sure what you want, how much it’s going to cost, whether its good value. The marketers have done a great job streaming doubts into your head, through the idiot box, and through so many new channels that traditional media are gasping at the options (and grasping with historical indecision). You’ve already made a decision to do something.

You want to be reassured, offered understandable and relevant advice to help you make a selection, of the myriad of choice. You don’t want to seem a fool, you’re not the expert, but it is your money. So you do the customer service dance, battle the mean streets, imagining you can research and define what you’re after by wandering for a while – in a daze of regurgitated technical speak and chewing gum being popped in your face.

Then you find them, your saviour, the solution. They solve your problem, they give answers you understand in your language, they make you feel good about life again. You let them swipe the card, subconsciously enter your PIN, and let the solution flood through your veins for a while.

You eventually found good service – this time, but weakened by the effort you crawl back to your comforting, away from the madding crowds zen space on wheels, to the nearest coffee refueling station and finally home. You forgot what your problem was, and next morning you find a shiny plastic bag cluttering up the hall. But you remember the smile, the pleasant interaction – just like going to the dentists..

There is still the chance to find great customer service in real life, off the web. Such as my recent experience at the unlikely but just wonderful service ‘tour de force’ that is Coupland’s Bakeries, Barrington Mall, Christchurch. Read here for why.

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“How businesses interact and interface with the multiple consumer contact points or moments of truth, will define if, and how brands succeed for the future.”

“Sir or Madam, may we suggest scouting your options online next time?” Convenience, service, price, service, information, service, comfort, service, choice, service.. did it mention service anywhere? When it’s not only better value overall (to be covered in a separate article), but also easier to get good, relevant answers from (sometimes live online, usually on the end of a phone) help staff, quick delivery, even from the other side of the Earth. Have people tired of the difficulty of the physical interactions, the rarity of genuine, face to face appropriate service?

How businesses interact and interface with the multiple consumer contact points or moments of truth, will define if, and how brands succeed for the future. It’s always been the case, but just now and going forwards, it’s going to require a more hands-off, bottom up approach that can’t be micro-managed. It was simple in the old days, they came through the door, or picked up the phone. Now they email, they check you out via a heap of social media sites, and comparative shopping portals that rate their overall experience with you. F&P are finding that consumer power in the States is causing them some ‘heat’, to which they’ve had to respond (news article here). Why not just organise it better in the first place? Set the tone, get good people in the right places, make sure the systems are consumer centred*, and let them get on with it, as your ‘customer service department’ of old doesn’t exist anymore.

Food for thought, whilst nibbling on a very tasty Coupland’s Jumbo cookie. The Black Forest flavour is divine..

43words ©David Binstead. 2011. All rights reserved.

*As an example of exemplary systems design and execution, Google have just re-designed the interface of some of their suite of goodies, including search, gmail and maps. Why? To make it easier and more intuitive to use their products. Ease equals path of least resistance. Business, with a good product, and an elegant, usable customer contact interface, will thrive…

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