Delegating Customer Service

 

Flying this week reminded my how frequently companies delegate customer service activities back to the customer. It's like delegating backwards. Just in the airline industry alone, customers now handle their own baggage (carry on), print our own boarding passes, directly make our own reservations, and bring our own food (which was really never a bad idea). Many retailers have scan machines so customers can check their own prices, many financial institutions have automated services and websites where customers never interact with a human being.

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While many of these innovations are good and make things easy, don't you think that many times they also get in the way of helping the company brands succeed? Zappos, for example, has a unique way of giving me a lot to do, but also a way of extending themselves so I don't feel neglected or not able to contact them directly. I think AMEX also strikes a nice balance between "delegating" services but also giving me easy access to someone to whom I can talk when I have a problem or have a question. Apple is also a company to imitate for unbelievably good support and service. For example, I love the chat feature in the store because if I don't need help, I can go about my business, but if I have a question, someone is there, ready for me.

Companies who delegate too much or don't give customers balance between delegation and a real human being lose. 

  • They lose the opportunity to talk to customers. This is huge. How do they know what's going on with their product of service if they don't listen and interact with live customers?
  • They lose branding opportunities. They are setting their brand up to be defined by the customer as unfriendly, uncaring and rigid.
  • They trade efficiency and short-term cost savings for longer term damage. They are measuring results incorrectly and ignoring the long-term opportunity that customer loyalty and trust can bring to any organization.

What do you think? Do you like having these responsibilities delegated back to you? What about your organization, how have you kept in contact with your customers, but also maintained cost efficiency?

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One Response to “Delegating Customer Service”

  1. Glenn says:

    Perhaps this is the “Amazon.com influence.” I’ve bought plenty from them but have never interacted with a human being. The problem with most companies is, they’re not Amazon.com.
    Let’s call others than have both a human presence and an online presence “blended.” Sometimes they rely too much on the online component at the cost of the human component. Amazon.com and a few others excepted, most people want a relationship with another person, someone they can trust.
    There oughta be a law that forces the bean counters to ride with the sales force. Then they might have a better understanding of how to balance the human side with the online side.

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