Guest Post: The Worrying Reality of Customer Service In The Digital Age

Author: Steven Kemp – Steven is a customer service expert that's been in the industry the last 20+ years. He was Head of Service at Shutl and currently Director Claddach Services Limited.

With the latest scandal involving the sharing of dodgy images online fresh in our minds I was reminded of the importance of getting things right first time when dealing with customers.

I have had a number of conversations with my teenage daughter about how easy it is now to do something stupid. When I was a teenager in the 80’s if I decided I wanted to send an explicit image to my girlfriend having taken the picture I would have to wait to finish the film in the camera, take the film to Boots for developing, pluck up the courage to collect the photos and then give the photo to my girlfriend. Even having done all this there would only be one copy. Today you can simply take the picture on your Smartphone and send it immediately in any number of ways. Once out there it can be shared with the world in seconds, this is very much like providing customer service today.

Again if I go back to the 80’s when I started work at a large insurance company where you would be startled if the phone rang, you only had a dumb mainframe terminal in front of you and nearly all customer interaction was by letter. This meant I had time to read what the customer was asking, time to compose my response (which was then dictated before being produced by the typing pool) and time to review my letter before finally putting it in the post. It was very hard to get it wrong or miss something out.

Move forward 30 years and the ways we interact with our customers have changed significantly there are so many different channels a customer can use to interact with us: phone, email, social media, live chat etc. These all have one thing in common; they are instantaneous, in addition to this our experiences are easily shared.

As a customer service professional in 2014 you have limited time to think about what the customer is asking or review your response. Get it wrong and the customer has lots of competitors they can go to and a whole host of social media to use to tell the world about their experience. Unfortunately the truth is that unlike Brooks Newmark (I dare say some of you are already thinking who?) that experience will not be forgotten in a hurry, get it right and you have a loyal customer, get it wrong and you have not only lost that customer but also their friends as well.

All of this means that getting things right first time, answering all of the customer’s questions and providing that information in a way an unambiguous way that is easy to understand is critical to the success of any customer service environment.