High touch over high tech

Last month, I had an experience with a tech solution company that recently added an enterprise solution. It did $1 billion of sales in 2016, and they don’t even have a live person you can talk to! They took two days to answer a support ticket and when they did email me the reply went to a generic mailbox. It really had me thinking about customer service, how it has changed and what we need in today’s self-service world.

For decades, most businesses have been working off the same customer service model. You help someone complete a purchase and trouble shoot a few simple problems. But, today’s customers need more. They are coming to customer service with more complex issues and only after trying to resolve problems themselves.

Data shows 81% of customers first attempt to take care of matters themselves before reaching out to a live customer service representative. And while that might help the bottom line in the short term, since “the cost of a do-it-yourself transaction is measured in pennies, while the average cost of a live service interaction (phone, e-mail, or webchat) is more than $7 for a B2C company and more than $13 for a B2B company,” what does make it to the front-line customer service desk is increasingly more challenging. While many companies are falling short, a few companies are providing what people really want from customer service. One successful company that continues to get customer service right is Zappos.com.

“In early 2004 our biggest problem was customer service—specifically, finding the right employees to staff our call center. A lot of people may think it’s strange that an internet company would be so focused on the telephone, when only about 5% of our sales happen by phone. But we’ve found that on average, our customers telephone us at least once at some point, and if we handle the call well, we have an opportunity to create an emotional impact and a lasting memory. We receive thousands of phone calls and e-mails every day, and we view each one as an opportunity to build the Zappos brand into being about the very best customer service. Our philosophy has been that most of the money we might ordinarily have spent on advertising should be invested in customer service, so that our customers will do the marketing for us through word of mouth… But that requires the right staff members…”

Hsieh says Zappos.com has invested in high-touch rather than high-tech to make a “personal connection” with their customers:

“There’s a lot of buzz these days about social media and ‘integration marketing.’ Our belief is that as unsexy and low-tech as it may sound, the telephone is one of the best branding devices out there. You have the customer’s undivided attention for five or 10 minutes, and if you get the interaction right, the customer remembers the experience for a very long time and tells his or her friends about it.”

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