Digital Customer Service and the Demise of the Greeter

Recently, I realized that there weren’t any greeters at the front of America’s favorite superstore.  Well, perhaps in some locations, but they are no longer a staple. This led me to wonder what’s happening to customer service. What was once a high priority in grocery stores and department stores everywhere is slowly becoming more reminiscent of the days gone by.

Relate this to the digital landscape. The Internet is like a digital superstore that expands across the world. Its immense nature and wide array of products give the Internet the appearance of a one-stop shop, super-mega store. The “Contact Us”, typically emblazoned on every business’ website, acts as the greeter, welcoming all to engage. What if that feature, like the Wal-Mart greeter, went by the wayside?

I’m sure you’ve experienced a weird moment when a store employee or even a passer-by speaks to you. Moment of truth: Smile Customer Service Bobback?  “Hi, how are you?” Or are you more inclined to hide your kids and hide your wife (okay, and your husbands too)? We live during a time when any unsolicited friendly gestures can strike us as pretentious, insincere, condescending — plainly put, up to no good. One good example is found in those pesky automated greeters on websites. I realize that it may be a bit more difficult to add that human element to a digital atmosphere, but seriously, how impersonal is it when a photo of a smiling associate pops up with a message like, “Hi, I’m Bob. How can I help you?”? You’re not fooling anyone. We all know that’s not Bob!

Customer service has become more and more impersonal, so people are surprised to have a really good experience after the “Contact Us.” Have they been conditioned to expect to be treated poorly? To be ready at a moment’s notice, recent bill or 100% Guarantee gripped firmly in hand, to demand to speak to a manager as they wait on the phone or for that impersonal message to be sent to them on a chat board?! No one really wants to be that client, and no company wants this to be its client’s experience.

So how should one approach customer service in a culture of “click here”?  With all of the information available online, there will still always be a place for human interaction. For example, how do you stay relevant and maintain a positive image in a world of yelping, thumbs downing, unfriending, and hashin’ tags – where anyone can be demonized so publicly, so quickly? Form a search party (pun intended) and find out what people are saying about you, then put that information to work for you.  You found a ton of good reviews?  Fabulous! Thank them and share it. A good review looks even better when there is a customer service response to go with it. Found a few bad reviews? They’re not going away, so view them as great opportunities. Post responses and show customers that you really do care. Keep some customer service rock stars available to reach out to your client base, join the conversation, and try to make things right.

Screen Shot 2013-04-03 at 4.43.18 PMI am not convinced that the client or customer is always right…not always. Nevertheless, your clients should always receive your very best. They are your clients, right?  And what father, if his son asks for bread, would instead give him a stone? You follow me?  Make sure you have trustworthy, qualified individuals in charge of these efforts. Find someone who knows how to “smile” digitally and resolve situations of unrest.  And of course, monitor your company’s online presence, even the pieces that you did not create. That being said, I would encourage any company to invest at least as much time, thought, and money into its customer service as they do in its product and strategy.

 

Tori Chambers – EVG Client Specialist

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