The Conundrum of Customer Communications

Is it possible to deliver exceptional customer service anymore? Was it ever possible? With each advance in the options for – purchasing services – finding information – rectifying problems – resolving complaints, the end-state moves further away. Consumers are not just demanding more, they are expecting more. Once, access to a toll free number was considered good service. Today, round the clock entree via phone, web, email, etc. (foundation of the customer service hierarchy of needs) is expected. But, that does nothing to distinguish a company. Which leads us to the second level in the pyramid – each application must be easy to use. Sounds obvious, but so few companies do it. It truly is a change of focus from how a company wants to manage the interaction to how consumers want to communicate. One has only to experience any of the myriad of voice/speech response applications out there today and compare to a real conversation to understand the difference. Which brings us to the next level – customers want informed resources. This is where the impact of unified communications is felt. True unified communications is not just telephony mixed with some messaging with a dash of collaboration and a sprinkle of video. It is the combination of all conversations (regardless of type) with context. How well is the consumer known?  What have they done recently? Do they have to repeat the same information over and over? Easy enough.  All you have to do is get all the departments within your organization to share information in a timely and consistent manner. Ok, who am I kidding? Now, we get to the top of the hierarchy – awareness, or, anticipating what customers want and meeting their expectations holistically rather than satisfying discrete events. Experience creates loyalty; not individual events. Realize that many of those conversations are happening outside your control.

 While this appears to be a “no win” situation; it is also a “must play” situation. Technology advances are both a blessing and a curse. It is easier to support these consumer expectations. Yet, consumers expect more because they have access to applications powered by this technology. Was it ever possible to reach the top? Probably not. The challenge is making the conscious decision to own all the communications or to let your customers speak without you. Now more than ever, it is critical to balance the costs and the benefits of retaining and growing an increasingly precious customer base.

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