Customer service is a common phrase, used in just about every business. It can pertain to actually creating a product that solves a problem or meets a need. Customer service is available when customers have questions, problems or need product or repairs. It is proactive, with clear instructions and user manuals to help a customer understand how to use and care for a product so it lasts longer and gives better results.
Hundreds of thousands of products are created every year. New digital devices, with apps for mobile use, are available for just about any manual activity. Sitting in front of a PC, working on documents and accessing information on the Internet is no longer a wondrous activity. Google glasses and the latest, Sony’s Smartwatch, is one of the newest digital wonders. Now, you can do your computing, check emails and even monitor your heart rate by checking your wrist.
The Smartwatch eliminates one of the drawbacks of the Smartphone—having to hold it in your hand. Instead of strapping it to your arm while jogging, or stuffing it in a pocket, your online world is neatly attached to your wrist.
A lot of new digital devices are introduced on the “build it and they will come” theory. But will the products pass the first test of good customer service? Does it solve a problem or fulfill a need? This one probably passes the test based on accessibility and convenience alone.
One need digital devices haven’t been able to fill is one that they replaced. Human interaction—talking face-to-face to another person, is becoming a lost art. Real eye contact is less comfortable than staring at a neutral screen. Facial expressions can convey attitude and judgment just by raising an eyebrow, smiling or frowning.
Computing isn’t going away. Neither is customer service and the need for some customers to have that personal connection with a service rep through conversation. To solve this service gap, computer companies discovered the need to bring back the conversation experience.
One of the criticisms of email is its lack of emotion. To emphasize how much emotion and inflection changes context, an old communication training exercise had participants repeat a short sentence and emphasize a different word each time. “
I want to understand how you made that decision”
I WANT to understand how you made that decision”
I want to UNDERSTAND how you made that decision”
And so on. Just changing the emphasis changes the entire meaning of the sentence. This happens hundreds of times in face-to-face conversation, but is lacking in digital messages. Companies are now working on the next generation of devices to somehow put digital messaging into the context of human emotions.
Customer service had to adapt to the computers, online sales and digital devices. Now, the products themselves have been found lacking in the one human emotion that makes customer service so effective. Some of the tips for designing new conversational devices can be applied to traditional customer service.
In conversations, people quickly discover a person’s personality as well as their likes and dislikes. Finding similarities brings people closer. Once you know someone better, you can better understand their needs and find solutions. A good customer service rep is a good listener. You can discover a person’s goals and what they want to accomplish by listening to how they phrase their complaint and then asking follow-up questions.
In a face-to-face conversation, you hear words in the context of body language and environment. Facial expressions, voice tone and body language add richness and emotion to a person’s words. You can discover how important a situation or particular solution is to the customer and focus your efforts to bring about the best end result. Melding the best of both mediums can enhance customer service delivery.
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