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I Have a Customer Care Dream

The middle of January always invokes the incomparable “I Have a Dream” speech by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Today, I’d like to adapt his words just a bit to apply the message to the customer care and contact center reality. Of course, I do not mean to imply that the subject of my essay—the customer plight—equates in any way to the subject of Dr. King’s speech; the intent is only to highlight the reality that customers face a difficult journey and to hopefully provide some entertainment. Please enjoy this piece and take a moment to recall the pioneering words of Dr. King and recall the times in which he delivered his masterpiece.

I join you today because of what has gone down in history as the poor treatment of our brands’ customers and a poor demonstration of commitment to customer experience in the history of our nation’s economy.

One and a half score years ago, @bradcleveland created @icmi to teach us how to improve customer care. His series of books have taught us everything there is to know about how we’re supposed to treat customers and structure our organizations to deliver the best experiences imaginable.

We all nod in agreement at everything Brad says, but thirty years later, the customer is not free. The life of a customer is still sadly crippled by the manacles of poorly trained agents, long wait times, insufficient technology integration, and organizational silos. Thirty years later, the customer still lives on a lonely island of dissatisfaction in a vast island of technology advances and the most powerful tools ever to exist. Thirty years later, the customer still languishes in the corners of our economy, and so we’ve come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

I say to you today, my colleagues, even though we face these difficulties of today and tomorrow, I have a dream. It is a customer care dream rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day our companies will rise up and live out the true meaning of our economy’s creed: the importance of the individual consumer and her ability to choose which brand she remains loyal.

I have a dream that one day our customers will be able to sit together with the brands they buy from and be satisfied together. We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all customers should be treated well; that their problems should be resolved as quickly as possible; and that they be left satisfied after we have finished interacting with them. I have a dream that even in the state of talk time, hold time, or even wrap-up time, the sweltering heat of poor customer experience will be transformed into an oasis of CSAT, low customer effort, low wait times, and high NPS

I have a dream that one day, customers won’t feel they need to keyboard rage at us on Twitter. I have a dream that before a customer has to reach out to us, we’ve already predicted what the problem is and have solved it before it blows up. I have a dream that we’ve created tailored and personalized experiences for customers based on the clues they’ve given us on what they want and don’t want from us, and that we actually utilize that data constructively. I have a dream that companies respect customer data and privacy so that the we self-regulate instead of creating our own worst nightmare scenarios with more CCPA, GDPR, and TCPA rules.

I have a dream that we learn to hire and train employees correctly, so that by the time they interact with our customers, they're prepared to actually resolve problems. I have a dream that we understand the importance of employee satisfaction and engagement, so that our frontline employees and their management treat our customers well.

I have a dream where our executive suites truly care about and recognize that customer lifetime value is directly tied in to how well our contact centers are funded and prepared. I have a dream that our contact center management has an equal seat at the decision making table along with the marketing, operations, supply chain, finance, and IT departments. I have a dream where contact center cost per call and similar metrics aren’t the guiding principle of our impact on the enterprise.

And when these things happen, when we let the contact center operate freely, we will be able to speed up that day when all customers—Baby Boomers and Millennials, phone-only and Digital Natives—every caller, tweeter, reviewer and chatter will be able to join hands: Free at last, free at last, thankfully customers are free at last!