Today’s corporate world is driven in ever increasing levels by the desires of its consumers. In the internet age businesses have recognised that their success is at the mercy of end users. Companies can live or die by the ‘axe’ of a disgruntled customer who takes to the electronic airwaves to vent in front of their copious Twitter followers or Facebook friends. Put another way, businesses are finding that if they don’t pander to the vagaries and often spiralling expectations of consumers today, they can get into trouble – and fast.
This is not a bad thing; necessity is the mother of invention, and services and products rendered today are ever more convenient and efficient for those who have to use them, and this can only be good for societal progress overall. (Though of course, managing expectations is still a key skill in Customer Service!)
It’s an interesting paradox then that the phrase ‘Customer Service’ is garnering a stigma internally in some organisations. Especially when we consider how crucial it is to business survival which directly affects our job security. So why is this? Let’s analyse.
In my opinion, the same cause of today’s discerning customer is the driver for internal feelings of dissatisfaction at being saddled with ‘Customer Service.’
And it’s all to do with that little understood phenomenon of the internet generation. Let’s consider that before, during and after the war, life was harsh and social safety nets didn’t exist. Parents were much stricter out of necessity. Following this was a period of relative societal growth and prosperity. This afforded the children of those who survived the war access to mass education, improved health care and other benefits of industrial and technological advancements. By the time they started having children themselves, they realised that it was no longer necessary to be as strict as their parents had been with them. Cue the arrival of Generation Y, the internet generation, born between 1980 and 2000.
The parents of this generation decided that rather than telling their children what to do they would consult them on their choices. Rather than coming down hard on anything below an A+ they would celebrate the small wins. And ultimately that they would become friends, mentors and teachers to their offspring, rather than be considered authority figures.
Coincidentally add to this the advent of the internet which puts the things we most desire at our fingertips. And while we’re at it, throw into the mix the credit culture of the last two decades (prior to the credit crunch) to give us the idea that there’s nothing we can’t have if we really want it. Add to this our own personalised soap boxes where we can promulgate our opinions to all who will listen and hey presto – it’s now no longer just the rich and famous who can afford to be picky – we all can. We’ve been brought up to expect it, and as far as I’m concerned it’s a fabulous thing. It’s high time that consumers had more power in the corporate arena and technological advancements have made that possible.
But now ask this generation to deliver exceptional ‘customer service.’ Most already do (this generation strives to ‘make a difference’), but the phrase alone seems to imply servitude and flies in the teeth of everything this generation stands for. This generation believes in partnering and collaborating on an equal footing, no matter who the person is. Phrase customer service as a partnering experience and it already has a new appeal to this generation.
This generation are keen for any training and development an organisation will offer them that will help them progress their career prospects and/or skills to really make a difference. But tell them that they must attend ‘customer service’ training and the instinctive resistance can be palpable. Even if the training would in fact be interesting, inspiring and useful across many arenas.
The customer service training I’m involved in is not about “saying good morning when you answer the phone.” It’s about exploring and understanding personality differences, knowing how to deal with positive and negative behaviours, how to manage expectations and a slew of other skills. These can be used not only with customers, but with partners, husbands, children or people we manage. If this was recognised when the term ‘Customer Service Training’ was used, the uptake would probably be much more enthusiastic than some companies experience.
So is the key to creating a customer service culture as simple as not using the phrase ‘Customer Service?’ Alas, this is not the case. Ultimately people have to undergo the training and buy in to the idea of partnering with customers to deliver an exceptional level of service of which the person can be proud and the customer delighted.
But it is interesting that a simple change of phrase can begin appealing to your employees on a whole new level. So, in closing let me ask you, if you had a choice, which of the following would you be more interested in attending?
“Customer Service Training Programme”
“People-Skills Development Programme”