In a way, customer service and the principles behind it are timeless.
A business builds a product or offers a service, consumers have questions, complaints, or creative suggestions for how said product can be improved upon, and the business receives those responses.
The way a customer has the ability to reach out to a business is a Soft Trend – open to influence by exponential digital technology; but the existence of the customer response is a Hard Trend – a future certainty that will always happen.
Because exponential digital transformation and the disruptions that occur alongside it are accelerating like never before, many businesses and organizations are utilizing Artificial Intelligence (A.I.), such as ChatBots, to handle the influx of customer service requests.
While A.I. applications are certainly a progressive way to address customer needs, there is a missing competency that I’ve discussed in other industries: the human competency, or the art of customer service.
I am clearly a huge proponent of disruptive digital technology and its massive potential to improve and transform our lives for the better; however, it is imperative to keep in mind that a human being is always the end user of a product or service.
Because of this, it is absolutely foolish to think that everyone is always completely satisfied with their experience using a ChatBot or other A.I. application for help with their iPhone, their auto insurance, or perhaps with their Wix website.
But, based on my Skip It Principle, where I teach business leaders to identify a real problem and simply skip what they think the problem is, the real problem in customer service A.I. applications a business utilizes is not the application itself; it is the lack of critical thinking from the human counterparts that finish the transaction!
For example, I recently spoke with an individual about their most frustrating customer service experience while doing research for this blog. Still furious, they belted out “Best Buy! For being a technology business, their customer service is absolutely terrible from start to finish.”
To make a long story blog-length, this individual purchased a Spotify gift card for his wife through Best Buy, and when it didn’t work with the specific Spotify account she has, he wished to return it. The ChatBot online had the science covered: this gentleman's return checked all the boxes, and it merely told him to take it to his local Best Buy to successfully return, so long as it hadn’t been used.
He did just that, and was met with blank stares by several employees at the customer service desk, who not only hadn’t a clue what type of protocol to follow that the ChatBot had instructed to this gentleman, but even simply told him he couldn’t return the gift card, after being told he could.
After a month from the time of purchase, this individual finally received his refund, vowing to never shop at Best Buy again. His simple request to return this card turned into a veritable full-time job’s worth of his time wasted, and it was all a result of human beings slacking on the art of their jobs, assuming the science had it all covered.
There will always be unforeseen challenges in every business across every industry, and predominantly, they will arrive through a customer service department.
However, having the ability to pre-solve predictable problems, a core competency of my Anticipatory Organization® Model, is how you can elevate your customer service and, likewise, move beyond success into significance with your organization.
Instead of leading from behind, an organization should conduct a pre-mortem, which is how you implement my Hard Trend Methodology and identify predictable problems with a product or service before the public has an issue.
Let’s reference the Best Buy example once more, except, in response to the customer service breakdown, see how the company could perform a pre-mortem to remedy the situation. This one is actually quite simple.
The customer service representatives clearly had a legacy mindset and a moment of unpreparedness, where they believed gift cards absolutely could not be returned. A pre-mortem in this case would be leveraging the fact that they do allow gift card returns to their marketing advantage, making sure every customer service employee at all their stores is well aware of how to return a gift card, and in what circumstances they may not be able to return one.
It is no secret that, in the world of social media, customers are loud and proud online. Every little hiccup they experience at a business may be tattooed on the comment section of the business’s social media accounts for everyone to see.
Again, technology is not the real problem. Sure, in the years prior to the exponential acceleration of digital connectivity, there were no receptacles where you could go and see how many people openly disliked a restaurant; however, word-of-mouth marketing has merely become physical. It is still the same concept.
The benefit of this is in having a customer service team utilize the technology exponentially. Respond to customer complaints in public, in an effort to see if you can repair the potentially damaged trust, and be sure to do so ethically. This is an additional example of the art side of customer service, in that a robot is not a sentient being and cannot empathize with dissatisfaction like a human customer service representative can.
In order to transform your customer service into one with an Anticipatory mindset and bring satisfaction to those customers that may reject the notion of ChatBot technology, you must always remember that there is a human side to customer service. To learn more, explore my Anticipatory Leader System to master these principles and more!
Daniel Burrus is considered one of the world’s leading futurists on global trends and innovation. The New York Times has referred to him as one of the top three business gurus in the highest demand as a speaker. He is a strategic advisor to executives from Fortune 500 companies, helping them to accelerate innovation and results by develop game-changing strategies based on his proven methodologies for capitalizing on technology innovations and their future impact. His client list includes companies such as Microsoft, GE, American Express, Google, Deloitte, Procter & Gamble, Honda, and IBM. He is the author of seven books, including The New York Times and Wall Street Journal best-seller Flash Foresight, and his latest book The Anticipatory Organization. He is a featured writer with millions of monthly readers on the topics of innovation, change and the future and has appeared in Harvard Business Review, Wired, CNBC, and Huffington Post to name a few. He has been the featured subject of several PBS television specials and has appeared on programs such as CNN, Fox Business, and Bloomberg, and is quoted in a variety of publications, including The Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Fortune, and Forbes. He has founded six businesses, four of which were national leaders in the United States in the first year. He is the CEO of Burrus Research, a research and consulting firm that monitors global advancements in technology driven trends to help clients profit from technological, social and business forces that are converging to create enormous, untapped opportunities. In 1983 he became the first and only futurist to accurately identify the twenty technologies that would become the driving force of business and economic change for decades to come. He also linked exponential computing advances to economic value creation. His specialties are technology-driven trends, strategic innovation, strategic advising and planning, business keynote presentations.