Have We Ushered In a New Age of Customer Service?

John Krautzel
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Innovations in communication technology have spurred new customer service trends in recent years. Many companies, especially those that do a significant amount of business online, have added online customer service options for their customers. In addition, many customer service phone jobs are being outsourced to other countries; some companies are even hiring customer service representatives who work from home. These new customer service trends offer benefits to both customers and customer service employees.

Some companies are changing the way their customer service call centers are structured to lower costs and improve quality. For example, many American companies have outsourced their call centers overseas — a controversial customer service trend. Countries that have a lower cost of living, such as India, have become a good fit for American companies that want to keep costs low without removing the option of telephone-based customer service. Some companies, such as JetBlue, allow customer service representatives to work from home after a period of on-site training. Proponents of this customer service trend say that it enables the hiring of highly skilled and educated employees whose family responsibilities prevent them from more traditional employment.

Internet-based businesses have pioneered online customer service in the form of emails and chat programs. This customer service trend has been enabled by new technologies such as high-speed Internet and GPS tracking. Companies such as Amazon use chat to allow customers to quickly inquire about missing packages or return procedures.

One advantage of chat is that customers can surf the Internet or talk on the telephone while resolving their problems, which is why many find chat delays less grating than lengthy call center hold times. Additionally, the customer and representative can easily exchange links to tracking information, order history, and prior chat logs online.

Though it can take longer to chat online than over the phone, problems often are solved more quickly because of these technological advantages. This strategy appears to be working for Amazon, which recently added 2,000 customer service positions in various call centers throughout the country. Some companies only provide Web-based customer service and might not even list a telephone number.

The influence of social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter has had a dramatic effect on customer service. Consumers can post their questions or complaints on a company's social media feed, sometimes getting faster resolutions than they would through normal channels. This customer service trend particularly affects young consumers who grew up with the Internet and have come to expect a quick response to their complaints.

Companies can take advantage of new customer service trends to reduce their operating costs and increase customer satisfaction. Because of overseas call centers, home-based workers, and improved Internet technology, the face of customer service is changing for the better.

(photo courtesy of imagerymajestic / freedigitalphotos.net)

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