Is Customer Service Getting Better or Worse? The Unexpected Gift of Social Media

I am a guy of advancing age (late 50s), so I am starting to sound like my father.

Occasionally, I even find myself suggesting a fondness for the past by populating sentences with phrases like, “In the good old days…”

Yesterday or Today

But when it comes to customer service experiences, I am uncertain as to which is better – the service of a decade or two ago or the experiences today. So I’d like you to weigh-in from your vantage point…

Sure there was a time when I could walk into the local hardware store and experience a scene captured in a song by a friend (David Wilcox) titled East Asheville Hardware. I would:

  • be served by a person I recognized,
  • have them call me by my name,
  • sense genuine concern from them regarding the importance of meeting my needs,
  • experience their extensive knowledge of the products they sold,
  • thank me for my business, and
  • let me know they look forward to my next visit.

But if I had to go back to those times, I would have also had to give up my ability to:

  • place my order at a store by using my voice-activated personal assistant device (in my case Alexa),
  • pick-up the item by only showing my driver’s license, and
  • be able to complain about any service breakdowns across my social media platforms or business review sites – such that the company would attempt to resolve my problem in a way that averts reputational damage across my network – ONE OF THE UNEXPECTED GIFTS 0F SOCIAL MEDIA.

It’s Gotta Be Old School

In the not so distant past, I wrote an article that was picked up by a number of media outlets titled The Power of “Old School” Service: Four Reasons Your Business Should Bring It Back. In that article, I focused on four reasons for re-enlivening the “good old days” of human-powered service experiences, namely:

  1. Customers crave a connection to simpler times.
  2. Customers find comfort in “the familiar.”
  3. Old school service fits with the burgeoning artisanal movement happening now.
  4. Your service style helps you stand out from the pack.

In many ways the case I made in that article hinged on a key premise:

There’s NEVER going to be a time when people say; I don’t really care if you hurt me. I don’t really care if you appreciate me. I don’t really care if I belong. You know, as far as I’m concerned, I just want to buy your stuff.

And I think because of that, we have to anchor ourselves to the timeless truth of humanity, even as we customize the delivery in line with the cultural trends.

Tempered Conclusions

Fortunately, in the article, I didn’t end with a nostalgic rant about how the world would be a better place if we could only experience service like that provided by Floyd Lawson at Floyd’s Barbershop on the Andy Griffith Show. (For all of you too young to catch that reference here’s the scoop on it via Wikipedia and an episode from YouTube). In fact, I suggested…

The successful organizations are the ones that…figure out how to integrate technology but still truly connect to the customer face to face or on the phone. They instill it in their training. Team members learn to make sure customers know that they matter — that they are always heard and appreciated.

What Choice?

Like many things, the choice between “high touch” and “high tech” customer experience is not binary. The keys for greatness today are to:

Study your customer.

Study their journey with you.

Make their journey easier where possible with technology.

Train your team to deliver warm, genuine, and caring experiences when customers choose to interact with people.

Better, Worse, Differentiating, and Extraordinary

So in the end, customer experience is both better AND worse than the good old days, but through customer-centric design AND customer experience skills training it can be differentiating and extraordinary for all of your customers!

Smoke over black background

Joseph A. Michelli, Ph.D. is a professional speaker and chief experience officer at The Michelli Experience. A New York Times #1 bestselling author, Dr. Michelli and his team consult with some of the world’s best customer experience companies.

Follow on Twitter: @josephmichelli

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