Why Can’t You Feel The Customer’s Pain?

Today I had to deal with a few customer service representatives, at different levels, regarding a variety of matters. These are the people you might call, too. They work in large companies and small offices. They have ID numbers or they go by their first name only. And they’re located in the United States and overseas.

A consistent theme ran through all these interactions: They were miserable. I never want to repeat any of them again.

This sorry state of affairs seems deeply unnecessary, especially when you consider the wide range of readily available tools out there to anticipate and respond to customers’ needs. For example:
  • Marketing research: Immersive, ethnographic techniques, combined with large-scale surveys and other forms of data mining, allow us to know exactly who our customers are, and exactly what their experience is like when they work with us.
  • Website and mobile app design: Standing up a responsive, customer-centric website and an associate app are fairly straightforward tasks, assuming you have the customer’s needs in focus.
  • Chat: Artificial intelligence chat features enable the user to obtain standard answers to their questions quickly.
  • Knowledge Base: A robust information repository, built from the questions asked most frequently, should make a search for the answers fairly painless.
  • Forums: User communities can enable customers to ask questions of one another so that they arrive more prepared at an interaction with an authorized company representative.
  • Training: All sorts of training modalities are available, from simple mentoring to virtual reality headsets, to allow staff to experience “the other side of that phone call.”
Given all this, what’s the problem? Why is it so hard to get customer service right?

Here’s the thing: We aren’t identifying the problem accurately. It’s not about building a better system. It’s about taking care of the customer as a human being.

As such, defaulting to technology is a fundamentally misguided solution.

Just like you don’t raise a baby on machines that dispense milk, you also don’t respond to customers with an endless plethora of technology-driven solutions.

Stripped of their humanity, living and breathing on technology-driven solutions alone, customer service professionals are unwittingly encouraged to see the customer in a dehumanized way as well.

Therefore, remove some technology from the equation, and watch the quality of customer service automatically go up.

Remove the computer, remove the scripts, and remove the timed and recorded calls. Unleash your people to offer authentic, unscripted, empathic, knowledgeable care to the person who is asking for their help.

Of course, this is not to suggest that technology has no place at all. It is of course essential, and great customer service is not a substitute for offering outstanding quality and value.

It is to suggest that we re-introduce compassion to the customer service equation. And make the interaction more fruitful, and less stressful for all concerned.


By Dr. Dannielle Blumenthal. The author hereby releases this post into the public domain. Opinions are the author’s own. Creative Commons photo via Pixabay.

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