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Did THAT Just Happen? Be a Better Customer

“Everybody is a customer; everybody wants to be served.” – Mariann McDonagh, CMO for inContact

All About the Agent; All About the Customer

October has been all about the agent here at ICMI and within most contact centers. It’s the month that we celebrate Customer Service Week and it’s an opportunity to formally recognize the frontline teams that interact with customers on a daily basis. (Yes, I agree that this should ALWAYS be happening.)

It’s also been a month where I’ve had an abundance of opportunity to personally interact with agents and customer representatives from across many industries. I’ve chatted with quite a few on site tours, at conferences, and in my daily customer service life and I’ve noticed a distinct theme – according to most of them, our customers are getting more demanding.

“They want EVERYTHING”, lamented one technical support agent. “If they don’t get what they want through phone, they hit us up on email. If that doesn’t work, then they blast our twitter account. And they’re mean about it.”

The Connected Customer Demands

The demanding customer is certainly not a novel concept, and recent ICMI research backs up the notion that the “always on” mobile and social consumer has greater expectations of support than ever before. Customers are now thought to be more informed and less tolerant of basic customer service, and 36% of contact center leaders believe “connected” customers have the highest demands.

They want faster response times, more customization in support, personalized service, immediacy, channel and platform options, single-sign-on, and instant connectivity to a live agent when needed.

The customer demands also have an effect on loyalty to an organization and the brand. Customers in a recent survey responded in solidarity that they would be MORE satisfied with an organization if they were offered their preferred channel choice, even if they received exemplary service.  It is clear that customer preferences are directly impacting their satisfaction and in many cases their willingness to jump ship from one brand to another.

We’re also hearing that customer expectations are not always realistic or asked for in an achievable manner. So the questions must be asked then – is the connected customer also guilty of some bad customer behavior? Are we sometimes giving bad service because we have bad customers? Should we be teaching customers how to be BETTER customers?

Be a Better Customer

And asked this I did. Overwhelmingly the frontlines wish we’d start teaching customers to be better at their job of “being customers”.

As one United flight attendant put it, “Customers have always had high expectations when they fly, but now they have a sense of entitlement. They don’t appreciate the limitations we have or the real purpose of our roles. Can’t you just train customers to be nice, patient, respectful? Teach them how to be better customers?”

Another customer service representative in the hospitality industry put it this way – “Customers forget that we are customers too. Yes, it’s my job to serve you, but you also serve me. It’s not unheard of that me or one of my 1000 peers isn’t a customer of yours, and you wouldn’t want us to treat you this way.” 

Before I weigh in with my two cents, what’s yours? Do you think contact center leaders should be teaching customers about customer service? Can you teach someone how to be “a better customer”?

More information about recent ICMI research can be found here:

The Multichannel Agent: A 2014 Contact Center Roadmap Research Report and Best Practices Guide

Extreme Engagement in the Multichannel Contact Center: Leveraging the Emerging Channels Research Report and Best Practices Guide