Even those of us in the business of customer service have a difficult time putting a hard-and-fast definition around the magic that happens when things go right. And everyone on all sides of the customer service equation knows when things go wrong. Given that, the complexity of today’s world (everyone’s busy, all the time!), plus the fact that in so many areas digital interactions have replaced face-to-face interactions, you might be wondering: “How did we get HERE?”.
It’s hard to believe that there actually was a time when, to be successful in business, all you had to do was make more of your product as fast as you could. Speed was what customers craved and if you could make a lot of whatever you were selling and make it fast, you could beat out your competition based just on that tenet. This is why Marketers at that time (we’re talking way back, in the 1900s), focused so much on product’s features. They weren’t thinking as much about what a customer needed when assessing the product, purchasing it and even after the purchase. If it was new and cool, customers were in. And it usually was a product and not a service.
Today, consumers want more from companies than swift production lines. And brands are genuinely trying to meet them where they are—striving to deliver simple, seamless and satisfying experiences. To say that the world of customer service has evolved (and continues to change) is truly an understatement. Early on in technology’s disruption of the industry, many people dreaded reaching out for help via the phone let alone online. And those channels are now commonplace and preferred. We’ll dive into these game changer but first, a brief history of customer service.
Globalization Gains Pace
In the 1960s, businesses focused less on what they were making and how to get it distributed. Globalization became a reality and companies began assessing the economics of manufacturing products in other countries. This made distribution more complex and the crux of customer service during this time. If a company could distribute products more places, to more people, they had the world in their hand, quite literally. This moved the focus from products to customers but still didn’t get anywhere near customer service as we know it today. It wasn’t even in the ballpark.
Time for Tech
As technology grew, naturally, businesses shifted their focus. Technology, first in the form of the phone, provided tools that meant business could really dig into who their customers were. And vice versa. All, simply because it was easier to contact each other.
That’s right, the telephone (not even as we know it today, constantly on—and on us) was the first big shift in how customer service was delivered. While it certainly saved travel time, the switchboard, known to us today as the phone tree, was less than ideal. Enter call centers, toll-free numbers, off-shore customer service teams and customer service scripts. Companies experimented, customers provided feedback and those that adapted, thrived.
Around the Clock Customer Service
Phone-based customer service has come as far as the phone itself—oftentimes it’s the 24/7, front line of sustaining a fulfilling customer journey. Customers looking for help, guidance and problem solving operate on their own timeframes and time zones. This fact doesn’t lessen the expectation for a swift response, either. And we all know that ultimately, the customer will determine when, where and how they need a customer service representative. So the advent of the Internet made things even more interesting.
Whereas businesses perhaps thought the phone would be abandoned in favor of instant messaging and email in the early days of the Web’s inception, instead, these channels all came together as a series of tools that customers would use (and use freely).
World, Meet Internet
A brand is no longer what it says about itself—it’s what its customers say about it. Scroll through any customer review site or business’ social media page and you’re sure to see plenty of what consumers have to say about customer service, good and bad. This is a long way of saying: when it comes to these conversations, today, the customer takes the lead. The most customer-oriented organizations started using social media to connect with their customers and keep up—another huge leap forward for customer service. So oftentimes, the customer-customer service interaction is happening out in the open.
For companies that can’t keep up in terms of channels or messaging, the introduction of the Internet meant there was no longer anywhere to hide.
Our Story Ends
Here we are, today, in a world where customer personas are at the center of business decisions, the needs of the customer are what Marketing teams focus on and options for products and services abound. Customer feedback is taken into account at every stage of the journey—all the way through to the close. And rightfully so, because customers know your products and services sometimes better than your own business does. That trickles down, too. When customer service shines, or you have the best deal, customers can be your biggest advocates. As a result, customer service, experience and reviews are key to business success. Ready or not, we are truly living in: The Age of the Customer.
While this is where our stroll through the evolution of customer service ends, the tools you need to succeed in this realm are far from finished growing. That’s a sure thing where Ruby has anything to do with it.
Ruby: Creating Lasting First Impressions
Need help meeting your customers where they are? Want to be able to respond quickly to consumers whether it’s online or via phone? That’s where Ruby comes in. While we began as a small company working to help companies build lasting first impressions over the phone, we now also help you communicate online, via live chat.
Why do we do it? Because that’s what consumers demand. How do we do it? With industry-leading live answering services and a team of remote receptionists ready to represent your company and create meaningful connections with the people you serve.
Ruby’s virtual phone and live chat services mean customers can connect on their terms whether your business model is remote, brick-and-mortar, flexible, or something else. Our platform is available 24/7/365, staffed by real people who sound like they’re in your office. But Ruby is no one-size-fits-all solution. Custom greetings, call handling procedures that fit into your existing processes are all a reality with Ruby. Over 10,000 businesses will attest to it.
Interested in learning more about customer experience? We’ve got a resource for that.