Summer in New England is a great time to have a lot of conversations. I have a daughter spending a part of the summer at a local university (85% goofing off – just the right ratio) with 600 other students. It is a great opportunity to not only embarrass her beyond words, but to hear the verbatims of a key demographic (from 42 countries). The verdict: When asked about calling into a customer service center to ask for help or support, the body language and facial expressions gave it all away before any words were spoken. To what might it be likened: to your uptight parents walking into a film screening of the 1979 Monty Python film, Life of Brian, and there on the giant canvas is Graham Chapman as Brian in all of his irreverent glory. If you don’t know the film, you owe me for filling a cultural gap.
So: fear, loathing, dread, anxiety, resignation, capitulation, mild nausea, frustration – just a few of the words that young people 15 – 19, female and male, from North and South America, Europe and Asia (ok, only South Korea, Singapore and Thailand) used to describe their feelings when faced with dialing a Customer Service Contact Center for help. “Those people are mean.” “They’re so old.” “They just yell at you and make you feel stupid.” “They never give you a break.” “It’s so slow.”
All the while, these tight knots of students are thumbing away on their iPhones or Blackberries. They want information fast, they want it easy, they want it right, and they want you to treat them like their peers. Their social rules keep them relatively civil. They know that you have to give a “Like” and post happy birthday and send around great pix and avoid caddiness. My daughter’s birthday was yesterday and by 7:00 AM she had 46 “Happy Birthdays” on her “Wall.” This young woman has connections with a lot of merchants – trust me - yet not ONE sent her a Happy Birthday. Not one sent an SMS or a post or a letter. Before you roll your eyes – think about it again. You are the adversary. They don’t hear from you, you hear from them. When you do contact them it is to entice them to outsource their marketing department by endorsing or commenting on a good or merchandise. Do you think they are naive? They see straight through it. It’s oldsters who are bored and lonely who are responding to you, no?
What do we do about this situation? Yes, you can get more “social” and create more ‘gives and gets.’ Just like any other social compact, but one appropriate to business. And get your Customer Service not only integrated into the community of customers / consumers and/or partners, but also get the customer service representatives into the second decade of the 21st century. They need better tools, better knowledge, better rules of engagement, and a better awareness of the real process the customer goes through.
The Customer Service Contact Center will embrace social media over the next five years until the point where there is no demarcation between the “Social Media” and the other communication media. There will be a continuum, with chat, email, live agents, collaboration, posts to Facebook, absorption of Facebook data into the customer record, the Twitter stream, and an externalization of the agent pool – to the extent that the customer can ‘know’ the agent with whom they are interacting. Mostly they will be using self service and the customer community, but when they want a human, and YOU want them to want a human, they will look forward to that ‘call.’
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