Posted by: Ron Loza | August 19, 2010

Do We Really Need Customer Service?

So many articles are written and so much advice given on the topic of “customer service.” This URL is one such example: http://smallbiztrends.com/2009/12/customer-service-trends-2010.html. There is never a debate as to whether or not a company should provide good customer service but what does that mean?

Consider the author’s point #3: “It’s All About You. Technology has allowed companies to personalize my visit when I go to buy from their web site. When I visit Amazon’s site, they welcome me back by name and suggest things I might want to buy based on what I bought in the past. This is the type of personalization I come to expect when I go to any face to face retail establishment.” The author is suggesting good customer service comes from a computer database. He is happier with shopping online (no personal interaction) than shopping face-to-face. Is he defining customer service or confusing this with convenient shopping?

Forrester Research reported, “In 2009, 154 million people in the U.S. bought something online, or 67 percent of the online population. While $155 billion worth of consumer goods were bought online last year ($25.8 billion in 2000), a far larger portion of offline sales were influenced by online research.” Forrester estimates that $917 billion worth of retail sales last year were “Web-influenced.” It also estimates that online and Web-influenced offline sales combined accounted for 42 percent of total retail sales and that percentage will grow to 53 percent by 2014.

It’s no secret that online buying has taken off and will continue to grow which may be a contradiction in terms of traditional customer service. Back in the 1960’s grocery stores kept tabs (pre-credit cards) and mailed monthly invoices to their customers, gas station attendants greeted each customer, filled the gas tank, checked the tire pressure and oil level, and washed the windshield, walk into most stores and the employees knew about the products they sold. Today it’s a self serve world, we pump our own gas, bag our own groceries, and even handle our own checkout at the cash register and if we want to learn about a product we research it online. How can a company provide a good “service” if they aren’t “servicing” us?

Take for example the trend in frozen yogurt. The new yogurt stores have the consumer serve themselves. They are free to create their personalized product. The employee simply weighs the end product and takes the consumer’s money. The consumer is happy with the experience.

So is “customer service” even relevant anymore? Should companies focus more on convenience, product, and information databases? Isn’t a happy customer the goal?

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