• August 15, 2012
  • By Leonard Klie, Editor, CRM magazine and SmartCustomerService.com

More Channels Makes Customer Service Worse, Not Better

NEW YORK (Customer Service Experience) -- Despite all the new technologies that have been introduced to the customer service world in the past 20 to 30 years, little has changed, according to panelists at the closing session of the inaugural Customer Service Experience conference Aug. 15.

The four-member panel of industry analysts largely agreed that all the new technologies have served as a detriment, rather than a boon, to customer service, making an already difficult environment even more challenging.

Social media, certainly the most notable of these new technologies, "distracts people from providing good customer service, and gives them something else to take their attention away from their other goals," said Ian Jacobs, a principal analyst at Ovum.

"At some point, customer service will get better, but there will be a long stretch for us to get through before then," he added.

Esteban Kolsky, founder and principal at ThinkJar, said technology was supposed to make lives simpler, but it has, in fact, made things more complicated. "Technology is not my friend. It has just made me a slave to it," he said.

"There haven't been any innovations in customer service in the last 10, 20, or 30 years," he said. "We're still doing the same bad things."

And, Kolsky pointed out, adding more channels just means more things for customer service professionals to do. The industry keep adding channels instead of fixing the ones it already has, he lamented.

And a lot of the current spending on things like social media is wasted because the service experience hasn't changed, he continued. "We're doing the same bad things we've done all along."

The bottom line, Kolsky said, is that the customer just wants an answer, and he doesn't care who gives it to him—whether it comes through an IVR, social media, the Web, or email—he just wants an answer.

And what technology has done is overloaded everyone with information, panelists said.

"We are in a state of volume warfare, with marketing and everyone else just pushing more stuff out all the time," said Art Schoeller, a principal analyst at Forrester Research. "We're flooding the consumer with information."

Kolsky agreed, noting that customer service has devolved into "an overflow of information that we have all grown accustomed to now."

But not everyone was as pessimistic about the future of customer service. Dan Miller, senior analyst at Opus Research, maintained that a lot of the technologies used in the call center, like speech recognition, IVRs, and voice biometrics, are getting better. "Some technology is getting better, to help us more," he said.

And not all companies are doing a terrible job at customer service, all the panelists agreed. "It's not that no one does a good job at customer service," Schoeller said. "There are a lot of companies that do customer service quite well."

But, he and the other panelists tempered their enthusiasm. "For every one company that's doing it right, there are 1,000 that are doing it badly," Kolsky maintained.

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