So, They Finally Learned Customer Service, Right?

If you hang around twitter these days, well – you are wasting precious time.

No, seriously – if you do you will notice people tweeting more and more about the “new” Customer Service at most large corporations.  You will see how Telco X was much better than it used to be, or Bank Y has finally gotten it right.  The impressions are that since the economy turned south, these companies learned the true value of their customers.  If you are going to base your perceptions on that datum only you may end up with the idea that these large organizations that used to be terrible at customer service have finally, finally learned how to do Customer Service right.  And you may be happy about the prospect of finally getting decent or good service from your service providers.

Well, hate to burst the bubble – but that is just not the way it is.  Sure, some of them may have improved some – even more than that depending on where they started.  However, there are three reasons why this is not going to be a long-term trend:

1. Nothing has Changed.  It takes months and large investments of resources (people, time, money) to make changes to customer service.  Takes long re-training and hiring processes, changes to processes, systems, and rules, and lots more.  This is not accomplished in a short period of time.  Even if the changes are implemented the time it takes to extend to the entire organization is more than you can imagine.  It is not uncommon for these initiatives to be implemented in multiyear projects.  Corporations have not yet changed anything (or not enough), they simply have more idle time due to less business and those CSRs can spend more time with customers.

2.  It is Event-Driven.  Economy goes down, we need to keep the remaining customers happy.  Tell everyone that they need to keep customers happy, empower them to offer more, let them satisfy the customers, change our business rules to reflect that.  All that will get short-term results: shorter transactions, better feedback scores, more satisfied customers.  What it does not do is make those changes permanent.  Once things go back to “normal” (meaning you realize the costs of this “good” customer service vs what you used to do is higher and go back to the previous state) theses initiatives will likely cease.  It won’t be overnight, but it won’t take that long either.  Businesses tend to have keen-jerk reactions only to change soon thereafter to something more moderate.  Expect the same here in about 4-6 months.

3. Tactical is not Long Term.  That’s right, there is no vision, no strategy, no plan.  Simply a “liberalization” of the business rules and inflection points in favor of the customer.  Being simple tactical means that it carries the burden of proof without expectations.  In other words, there is no expected ROI or benefits in this move.  Alas, if there is no show of value (that is long-term value) in the decision to change within a relatively short time-frame (1-2 months) things will go back to normal (read as they were before) in no time.  There has got to be some expectation of a return of some type before it is made permanent – and a strategy sets those expectations (btw, it also takes a long time to set those expectations, not that easily done).

So, have these large corporations finally learned customer service done right? Probably no.  Actually, highly likely no.  However, if they are smart they will see this as a good first step and continue down this path.

Don’t you agree?