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The Changing Face of Customer Service With ever-evolving technology and the rise of social media, companies need to make critical changes

I

t was 10 years ago that I sat in a hotel room with

Taking a more in-depth look at this era of change, it is

my laptop plugged into the phone cord, fighting

inherently obvious how much the technology we are using in

to make sense of an assignment in an ever-evolving industry

advancements have affected how a customer care center has

with my first version of a PDA (a PalmPilot), trying

our lives has changed. What can go unnoticed is how these

— customer service. Just as foreign as the acrid air and con-

adapted to serve customers. Not only are companies look-

stant motor noise of India were the changing ideas of what

ing for different ways to interact with customers, but they

it meant to be a customer service expert. While the times

are also looking for valuable interactions and meaningful

have changed and business has become more efficient and

connections.

optimized, a decade later we all have a different perspective of

While this was just one of many trips to India, China

what it means to be a service leader but remain aware of how

or the Philippines, we found our mission was of a singular

important an interaction with a customer can be.

purpose: how many seats can you move “offshore?” Directed by companies looking to make spending cuts (sometimes up

to 40 percent), we were looking for anything that could move, and we all had the same objective. At the time it was considered a brilliant initiative to free up capital for other business

practices. While there are good reasons to leverage lower-cost

labor markets and we can debate the labor arbitrage pros/cons, one undeniable fact is that there was a fundamental lack of

vision in regard to customer facing interactions; in the pursuit

of outsourcing customer service efforts for cost-effectiveness, we minimized the value provided.

A few years later, with a well-worn luggage set and a

filled passport, it finally starts to click. Why are we answer-

ing customers’ calls just to make them more irritated? Taking

into account the absurdity of the notion, would it be better not to answer at all? Without the resources for an academic study, I’m only left to assume that my instincts have some

legitimacy and that something else is taking place during this

Spring 2012

Photos courtesy of JASON WOLCOTT

shift of resources. What’s more, customers “are” starting to

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figure things out on their own. We continue to listen to calls and hear something eerily similar; in one manifestation or

another, the phrase “I already found this information online” is multiplying. As such, I now believe that as a direct response

to the shift of valuable customer service, we as consumers have begun to solve our own problems online.

As a business community, at some point in the past decade

we finally reached the proverbial tipping point. We as compa-

Customer Care News


nies and service leaders went too far. By minimizing the value of the interaction so low, consumers have resorted to handling

the problem on their own. Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) loved it; Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) feared it.

In 2007, I left the corporate world on a mission to rede-

velop the way people think about not only customer service

but also online engagement. At this time the business com-

munity wasn’t using social media as everyday jargon, but the

presence of customers online wasn’t ignored. In response, millions are spent by companies placing “ads” in the right places of the web, and websites are redesigned and optimized around the clock.

During this timeline, though, the question still lingered

on how this channel can be utilized for superior customer service? Things have changed so much since the offshoring days; are there other service leaders who will see this untapped opportunity? Can we make a business of it?

The evolution of our company began to take shape in an

effort to answer these very questions. We began scraping the

web for customer comments, and analyzing them. The results confirmed my suspicions while at the same time showing the

Photos courtesy of JASON WOLCOTT

Internet had evolved beyond our expectations. Just as custom-

ers were helping fellow customers to circumvent tricky service, companies were getting cut out. Banner ads were ignored

while consumers looked for the community expert. It was an amazing experience to watch the customer service industry change in real time. The reality was clear: the opportunity of

this channel is to interact with customers where they want

and how they want. And the superior mantra is still the same: make sure you can add value to the conversation.

Now it’s 2012 and our company helps Fortune 500

Wolcott, third from left, pictured with other Service Execs in India at the Taj Mahal

companies proactively assist customers online. That’s right;

to “survive” in an incredibly active customer care world. The

and are asking how they can help. The outright proliferation

pany due to the sheer necessity for market survival.

companies are proactively looking for customers with issues of social media into our everyday lives has helped add fuel to

customer experience is finally being valued within every comWe as customer care experts must continue to adapt

the fire, and the new era of customer support is well underway.

to this level of change. Now is the time to have a seat at

experience means to their products and services, but it is clear

Presidents of Customer Experience than any other role. To

Companies are still scrambling to figure out what customer that the genie cannot be put back into the bottle. The cus-

tomer now has control, and companies must figure out if they can add value to stay part of the conversation.

In stark contrast to the situation 10 years ago, I now wear

the boardroom table. More companies are appointing Vice not have proactive online engagement as an agenda point in

each meeting would be a failure to learn from a decade’s worth of education provided to us by consumers themselves. CCN

sneakers and tee-shirts to the office in a rebuilding Detroit.

Jason Wolcott is the co-founder and CEO of 3CSI where he leads

to how a similar customer service provider structure might

to clients. 3CSI’s goal is to help companies provide greater value

I am “much” older than any of my employees as compared

company but instead a reflection of the adaptation necessary

www.customercarenews.com

Spring 2012

have been just 10 to 20 years ago. This is not unique to our

delivery of strategic customer relationship management solutions to their customers by fully leveraging new technologies and media channels. Wolcott can be reached at jwolcott@3csi.com.

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The Changing Face of Customer Service