These days, any self-respecting brand has to consider customer service as an integral part of the consumer experience.  This is even more true if the brand is in the high value or luxury sector.  Customer service is one of the great ways of humanizing a brand, providing tailored advice and/or service for the particular case of the consumer on the line.  Some brands think it best (and oftentimes fittingly) to outsource customer service.  I am not going to challenge any particular brand on the economics of this solution; although, I tend to believe that outsourcing your customer relationship is a dangerous affair.  The challenge with customer service is being able find a balance between the service component and the cost-omer component.  Customer service nightmare stories abound, even when it is homegrown and internal.  That said, the point of this post is not to slag off on a poor experience.  It is to identify a few areas where some high flying executives may not take the full measure of their actions.   There are three key points for excellence in customer service:

  1. customer service must be accountable
  2. customer service is personal
  3. the customer want to be treated as the same individual, no matter the point of contact.

No “Personal” email

I was recently told by a company’s customer service representative that she would,
exceptionally speaking, provide me with her “personal” email
Personal, customer service, The Myndset Digital Marketing and Brand Strategy
at work.  It was as if she had bestowed on me a national honor.  Now, we are not talking her personal gmail from home.  We are talking her direct email at work (as opposed to  To make matters worse, she asked that I delete her mail from my address book after sending my mail.

It boggles the mind that a very large organization these days will not provide nominative email addresses to clients, much less for communications between customer service and their more loyal customers.  A generic email inbox, where there is no graduation made for the type of customer, is a terrific mistake if you are serious about the customer experience.   When a customer is obliged to interact with different people in customer service, it is bound to cause heartache because of the lack of continuity.  Having an impersonal email inbox tends to send a message that there is no accountability and that satisfaction is unlikely to be guaranteed.

Anonymity ≠ Responsibility

Just as email should be nominative, a customer service representative should have a name.  Hiding behind anonymity is tantamount to passing the buck, literally.  Some employees would rather protect their privacy.  Alternatively, they have something to hide, as in they do not want to have their name associated with shoddy customer service or a low-rate brand.  But, let’s start with a first name (Minter D) or, perhaps, a last name.  If the brand is serious about a healthy long-term business, customers deserve someone who will take responsibility for the answer.  Some forward-thinking brands crossed that Khyber Pass on Twitter when signing tweets with the customer service representative’s intials, as in “-md.” {Click to tweet!} If a senior exeuctive has not deigned to sign up to Twitter yet, he/she is unlikely to understand these codes and, therefore, is unlikely to decide in favor of a responsible customer service for the sake of cost-cutting.  Cust-cutting-omer service is a bad shortcut.  Yet another reason, I say, why executives must up their digital IQ!

 Customer-centric data

Call center, customer service, The Myndset Digital Marketing and Brand Strategy

If there is one thing that gets me quickly irritated, it is when I need to explain my case more than once to the same company.  How is it that my case has not already been logged, I tend to ask myself?  Of course, there are qualifications to this expectation, but I do find it galling that one needs to repeat one’s situation.  Much like when you key in your credit card or telephone number after dialling in and then still have to repeat the number anyway to the live voice who finally answers.  The ability for a company to organize its customer knowledge and spread it out to the necessary parties in a timely fashion should be considered of strategic import.

Good customer service means walking in their shoes

With all these cases above, senior executives tend not to relate to them.  Whether it’s because they don’t deal with these issues personally, because they have alternative “hotlines” or because they are not social media-savvy, senior executives rarely walk the customer’s path, in the customer’s shoes.  Thus, they may not properly gauge the impact of an unsatisfactory service.  When was the last time the CEO tried calling in him or herself and experienced the joys of a looped automatic answering service or a head office call center that is not equiped to take messages?

Senior leaders must walk the talk and put on the customers’ shoes more frequently in order to make the right decisions.  {Click to tweet!}  Otherwise, it is only too easy to view customer service as an expensive expense or a necessary evil as opposed to a positive, brand-building opportunity.

What other big no no’s are there when considering excellence in customer service?  Please do share your stories and/or thoughts!

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