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5 Myths of Customer Service That Might Hold You Back

multichannelAs we manage the new normal, let’s talk about expectations management. If the last two years of on-again-off-again Covid-19 restrictions have taught us anything, it’s that realistic expectations are more sustainable than wishful thinking.

One good way to keep your plan grounded in reality is to challenge the buzzwords of customer service. Make sure that the latest trends are really what your business needs to succeed.

Here are a few areas to consider:

AI is Not Always the Best Means to an End

AI is cool, but to this point it largely has overpromised and underdelivered. Artificial intelligence is not even a feature, it’s a method of implementing a feature. In other words, it’s a means to an end, and that end is a specific use case.

AI is a technology that enables machines to simulate human behavior and create software that can solve complex problems as we do. Machine learning is a subset of AI allowing a system to automatically learn from past and present data without having to be reprogrammed. When we look at famous examples that work off hundreds of millions of individual parameters, it’s ultimately crunching big data. Who has the time, money, and data volume to train a system with that?

When searching for solutions to your problems, or evaluating vendors, don’t forget to look behind the curtains and see what their AI actually does concretely and whether it is truly the best method of solving that specific problem.

For example, chatbots without AI can be more successful than those which have it in some form. Multiple expert chatbots, each focused on a single subject and coordinated by a central bot, sourced from a knowledge management system, and sprinkled with regular requests for clarification and user feedback, can accomplish more for less money and time than AI.

Customer Centricity is Hogwash

Let’s start with the Gartner definition of customer centricity as a reference point:

Customer centricity is the ability of people in an organization to understand customers' situations, perceptions, and expectations. Customer centricity demands that the customer is the focal point of all decisions related to delivering products, services and experiences to create customer satisfaction, loyalty, and advocacy.

While helpful, this is still inherently vague and open to human interpretation. Moreover, think of some of your favorite products and services like the iPad, Netflix, or Uber. If you’d asked customers, I’ll bet exactly zero would have asked for them before they were invented. Customers understand and can ask for incremental innovation, but rarely demand something radically new.

Next, customer centricity is not measurable. You can measure KPIs or specific outcomes, but not to what extent customers are the focal point of decision making. Finally, and most importantly, customer centricity is simply not a goal. It’s a means to an end and that end is revenue.

In the end, as Jack Springman has argued, aim for a culture of customer understanding to guide decision-making, but not decide it.

KPIs Aren’t as Important as You Think

If CX professionals want to be taken seriously internally and have their needs addressed – and above all funded – they need to demonstrate to management that they understand what makes the company run. Requesting more resources or a new tool to reduce AHT and increase FCR isn’t about just making calls shorter and having fewer repeat calls. It’s about reducing costs and, as an added benefit, also making customers happier and more likely to do repeat business.

Those with one foot in the business side of things will already know this, but I see far too few “cold hard facts” type arguments and too many emotion-based ones.

Planning, Training and Execution are More Important than The Best Tools

Vendors love to highlight the importance of getting the newest, shiniest toy for your contact center. To be fair, there is some truth to the claim that old tools no longer fulfill today’s requirements, but training and good execution will beat the newest thing any day of the week.

New tools are not a solution to a lack of strategy and training or to poor execution. Make sure you:

  • Plan carefully for exactly how you can use the tools and resources you have available.
  • Invest in training and make it continuous, not just for onboarding and compliance.
  • Regularly review and optimize your operations relative to your past performance and future goals.

One Bad Service Experience Isn’t Always a Problem

For those of us who live and breathe support, it’s easy to unintentionally adopt an overly service-centric view of the world and how business works.

Yes, bad service experiences should be avoided, but there are always outliers and things you cannot prevent. One or two bad experiences are not the end of the world, but consistently bad service is.

My favorite airline, for example, has not always been perfect, but why do I always choose it? It’s from my home state and my family has always flown it. My long-term experiences in the aggregate are primarily good so I can live with an occasionally disappointing support experience.

Service is a human experience and made up in large part by emotion. The same tone of voice may come off as rude to one customer and normal to another. Aim for sustainable service, as good as you can pull it off, not the stars.

When it comes to realistically designing, planning, and implementing your overall customer service vision, it needs to be grounded in your business reality, not in hyped-up absolutes no one can fulfill. Customer service is an increasingly critical part of any business, but your overall goals, expectations, and execution must be aligned with the real world and business goals.