For many consumers, the concept of “customer service” is frustrating to the point of humor.
Even with the many advancements in digital technology today, consumers still experience lackluster resolution to often simple problems. They find themselves upset because whenever they have an issue, the in-person employee doesn’t know how to help them or they “never get to talk to a real person” when automated responses do not answer their question.
Customer service shouldn’t be this way! The solution is an Anticipatory mindset that starts with a foundational understanding that exponential digital change will only increase, and consumers’ wants and needs will transform as well. This mindset shift will greatly improve your customer service practices and your online customer service functionality, and it will result in greater customer satisfaction, trust, and loyalty.
When faced with an obstacle of any kind, most individuals will find themselves hung up on the wrong problem. A core competency in my Anticipatory Organization Model is what I call the Skip It Principle, where an Anticipatory Leader uncovers what the “real” problem is, allowing said individual to simply skip over other issues they originally thought insurmountable.
Now, you may think that in this case, the Skip It Principle somehow directly applies to a company quickly assuming their product is faulty because the customer says so. However, more often than not, what a customer thinks is the issue with a product or service may be something completely different.
For example, consider a customer who is shopping for a new pack of socks, claiming that every time they purchase socks from your company, the socks get holes quickly and need to be thrown away. Using the Skip It Principle to identify the real problem, the service representative asks the individual where the socks are worn. The representative comes to find that the customer not only has an abrasive tile floor throughout their house, they also go outside without shoes on to check the mail, revealing the actual problem.
The representative then offers an additional product, such as slippers that can be worn inside and outside the home, to help increase the longevity of the customer’s purchase. In the end, it solves a problem that the customer initially was unaware of—that they might be putting their socks through stress that they are known not to handle.
The previous example underscores the benefit of not necessarily assuming that the “real” customer issue is the one you see in front of you. By preparing to ask customers questions, a customer service representative will uncover the customer’s genuine need—and solve the “real” problem that wasn’t evident from the start.
In order to implement my Skip It Principle, preparation is necessary. This skill can be mastered through interactive exercises found in my Anticipatory Leader System, and as a leader, you can gamify those training exercises to make the competency in pre-solving problems customers are unaware of more impactful.
The Skip It Principle is even more applicable for in-person customer service representatives at stores. With today’s speed at which a person can have a question answered by Siri or Google, knowing how to pre-solve a problem an in-person customer has with a product or service builds a level of loyalty to your brick-and-mortar location. A customer with a request or an issue who has their needs met while in-person is sure to return as they now trust your team and organization.
When you have an online presence, it is more vital than most realize to ensure that your website, app, or other virtual system is user friendly and mindful of the user experience. I hear too often that customer complaints are largely tied to a customer’s difficulty in finding how to contact a help line and then being met with a lackluster chatbot.
Make sure a new customer can easily locate how to contact you, no matter how big your customer base is. Much like building trust in-person, ensuring every single customer can easily access help will keep them as your customer. But remember, that’s only the start; what happens once they interact with your help system is where it counts.
With a plethora of chatbots and other AI technology designed to handle customer questions and issues, here is another Anticipatory principle opportunity: the Both/And Principle. In this, I remind everyone that “out with the old, in with the new” is not always the only option; there is a lot to be gained from using both legacy systems and new technology together.
If you have a wide customer base and cannot possibly have thousands of customer service representatives answering calls around the clock, always have some on hand to jump in and help a customer who prefers to talk to a person. You would be surprised just how many prefer that personal touch in a world largely dominated by chatbots and AI!
It is noteworthy that while the Skip It Principle and Both/And Principle are powerful tools to have in your customer service toolbox, there are always going to be instances where the customer is right and your product or service needs improvement. This is where the human side to disruptive digital technology is important.
I’ve written extensively about soft skills that humans excel at over computers, which include creative critical thinking. This is where those come into play. An Anticipatory mindset trains you to pre-solve problems and also utilize new technology exponentially, such as leveraging a chatbot that takes tally of specific customer issues. From that data, you can think of ways to solve problems with those products that customers don’t realize they have yet!
Your customers are your lifeblood, so be sure to refine their experience with your team by signing up today for my Anticipatory Leader System. This will surely help your organization develop an Anticipatory mindset and turn disruption and change into opportunity and advantage.
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.