This is part two of a three-part series. Read the first part here.
In the past, I’ve written and spoken about the evolution of customer service. And driving that change are evolving customers. Customers of the same company or business might come from different generations. They might have different knowledge or backgrounds.
But the rapid growth and advancement of technology, in addition to the ever-growing demands of customers has presented new challenges for companies when it comes to customer service. We’ll explore those more in depth in this article.
First, to recap the first article of this series, we looked at how the universe of tasks that we do on a “self-service” basis has exploded.
For example, a couple of generations ago, pumping your own gas was a cutting-edge DIY event. Today, average people expect to be able to do everything from building the deck in their backyard to running complicated technology and software that used to take an IT department to manage.
However, the same instantaneous media (i.e. the Internet) that has fueled our desire to tackle these incredibly involved projects independently, has also seemingly decreased our ability to mentally maintain large chunks of information. We are offloading this memory to silicon-based and magnetic storage. If we can look something up on Google tomorrow, there’s no need to remember it today.
But the challenges don’t stop there. There’s another one that might give us more variables to cope with than either of the first two. I’m talking about the generational differences.
If I can paint with a broad brush for a moment, let me say that there are three major generational currents flowing in our society today – the Baby Boomers, the Gen-Xers, and the Millennials. Further, there is great variation within each of these groups regarding the expectations they bring to commercial interactions.
This scene happened just last week. A couple I know, both Baby Boomers, was next up in line at WalMart. Coincidentally, they were behind another Baby Boomer who was just finishing up her transaction. My friends looked at each other and stared in disbelief when the woman pulled out her checkbook to pay. They were already in a hurry (of course) and the added time of writing a check and fumbling with tearing it out of the checkbook, was pushing them to the edge.
Here were people from the same generation, one of which still pays with checks while the other two are using Apple Pay whenever possible. I mention Apple Pay because it highlights how quickly technology is changing today. Consider the evolution from cash, to checks, to charge cards, to debit cards, to digital wallets. Older generations lived with one payment method for their entire lives. Today, at least four methods are considered “common currency” and there are certainly more coming in the near future.
With this backdrop, let’s stop, take a step back and look at the customer service challenges we have identified:
- An almost infinite variety of tasks that we either want to or are forced to handle on our own.
- A diminishing ability for consumers to maintain the big pieces of information required to achieve many of the tasks alluded to previously.
- A mishmash of people from several generations who bring a dizzying array of habits and expectations to commercial interactions.
To provide world-class customer service is, obviously, a huge challenge today. I think one of the immediate takeaways is that smart companies will often employ an array of techniques to get the job done. Not long ago a company could “improve” customer service just by adding bodies in its call center. Today, the solutions are much more nuanced.
In our upcoming final article in this three-part series on creating customer success, we’ll inventory techniques and strategies that are being deployed today, with special emphasis to those that provide a great deal of success for a wide variety of consumers.