Having Her Say: Customer Service is Declining Again

According to a new survey from marketing consultancy Hornstein Associates, customer service standards have hit an all time low in 2007. E-mail response to customer queries declined 50% since 2002. The report argues that a heavy reliance on technology—with little attention paid to best practices—is responsible for companies’ poor performance.

I disagree with the reason they attribute it to—yes it’s about reliance on technology—but not because of little attention paid to best practices. Rather, it’s the lack of attention paid to the human aspect of customer service.

Twenty five years from now, customers will not metamorphose into machines. There will continue to be people who want or need to speak to—either in person, via phone, e-mail, text chat, whatever touch point—a human being. They people want to be touched. Maybe that’s why they call them touch points? There are also issues that cannot be handled with technology. Therefore, the human touch will always be required in certain circumstances, and by certain people.

This is not to say that technology doesn’t have its place. I’m all for technology to make our lives easier. I’ll even use it to report my power outages. But in a recent storm when I was the first to notify the electric company that we had no power, voice response didn’t do it for me. I wanted to speak to a human, so I used the “zero out” option and got one. And I reported the problem to her, asked a myriad of questions, and got my answers.

Having the choice is what makes the difference for me. If I don’t have a choice or an option to speak to a human, and especially if I get caught in one of those loops in the voice response unit, I am going to go to the competition. And I’m not different from any other customers. Don’t you agree?

Technology is there to support us, not replace us!

Remember, people don’t care what you know until they know you care.

Roseanne D’Ausilio is founder of Carmel, NY-based customer service consultancy Human Technologies Global.