Focus on Customer Service in 2010 (Finally?)

focusThis may be it. This may be the year that it finally happens. 2010 may just be the year that companies start to focus on their customers and serving them well.

Now, I am cautiously optimistic about this focus on customer service, but let me tell you why I feel this way.

– Brands are using a focus on customers as a competitive differentiator in their advertisements. Frank Eliason mentions the new commercial for the Chase Sapphire credit card service. It features the ability to talk “directly to a live person when I call” rather than being routed around an automated call queue. The new Domino’s Pizza commercials talk about how they have been listening to their customers and have improved their pizza as a direct result. Phil, who Tweets for them from Domino’s HQ, talks about how they have been serious about customer feedback and been researching this for 2 years. Kudos to these two companies and the many others who are making it public that they care about their customers and what they think of their brands.

– I am hearing more and more that “Customer Service is the New Marketing” from smart folks in the social media space (including in the above post from Frank Eliason). This isn’t a new concept; in fact, I spoke at a conference of the same name 2 years ago this February (where I first met Tony Hsieh from Zappos). Every customer touch is another brand impression of the company. Each contact with customer service, whether by phone, email, Twitter, or self-service is a brand impression. Each customer service representative says more about the brand by how they treat a customer during an interaction than any marketing campaign.

– Customers are having ongoing conversations with brands and with each other about products and services. Companies are realizing how influential these conversations are now that they are starting to listen to them via social media monitoring. And it is a good thing they are doing so. As I tweeted out earlier this week,

“Customer service is more critical than ever. The combo of social media and mobile devices = the perfect storm for an angry customer.”

Think about this scenario. A customer is standing in line at a retail store. The line is very long, and the checker seems to be taking forever. The customer feels like complaining to the closest person who will listen, and it is at his fingertips: Twitter/Facebook/posterous via his mobile phone. It is imperative that brands and companies constantly listen, and more of them than ever seem to be doing so. Those who are not will fall behind in 2010.

In my opinion, all the signs are pointing in the right direction for a focus on great customer service, and with it a rockin’ customer experience in 2010. Those companies that “get it” will rebound from this recession faster than those that don’t. Those companies that “get it” will have loyal customers who shout about how great that company is to anyone who will listen. Those who don’t may just hear a lot of shouting as their customers complain very publicly and then walk away.

What do you think? Is 2010 the year for a focus on the customer?

(Image credit: michaeldb)

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24 Responses

  1. Great post!!!

    With that said, companies must understand there’s no way to deliver a great customer experience if all company employees aren’t on board.

    Like how some companies celebrate when individuals or groups outperform metrics for sales growth or profitability, customer-centric culture companies generate the same excitement around customer experience success. I’m not saying if you create customer experience metrics and use public acknowledgments and incentives to reward employees for exceeding those goals, will magically make everyone have customer centric DNA. However, I AM saying that whatever it is (incentive/reward program etc…) you decide to do, EVERYONE should be on board.

    Unengaged employees don’t create engaged customers

  2. As you mention Becky, listening is more important than ever, and the method many people are using to speak is Social Media. So if customers are speaking with Social Media, that is where we have to be to listen.

    Then if something bad happens… we need to respond with lightening speed using the same method that expressed a need. I believe I heard it from the Chicago Domino’s pizza guy, “To put our Social Media fires you must use Social Media water”.

    So listening is the first step to great customer service, and we have more tools than ever to do that. Now we must listen well, and respond well. 2010 IS the year for great customers service!

  3. Becky, Good Morning
    I think the effects of social media have helped steer big brands, in that everyone (our customers) today is a publisher with effective distribution channels, armed with an arsenal consisting of cameras, video and the ability to self publish and distribute on the spot while in line at the cash register, and they aren’t afraid to lash out.

    Smart companies are embracing the engagement, good and bad and will parley a whole new level of brand loyalty. This time not so much because of a bombardment of advertising, but how we are treated at various touch points, what we remember about that experience, did they listen.

    To your point, the chapters are being rewritten, and it is a great thing to watch and experience,

  4. I could not agree more that this is the year that participation becomes mainstream – and, companies that embrace the conversation will be all the better for it. Those who listen mindfully – participate with grace and conviction – embrace the changes innate in social business and promote shortfalls publicly will be miles down the road of creating engagement – or, a level of loyalty that will give cause for people to shout from the roof tops.

    We all know that consumers are more apt to cry out publicly about a companies misstep than a companies win. I look forward to more examples of reasons to cry out for the over the top positive experiences. I am convinced we will see more of that in 2010.

    Thank you for the wonderful passion that shines through in your work…

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