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Using Technology to Improve, Not Destroy, Customer Service

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Customers are hearing much too much of "Please listen carefully, because our options may have changed…." and "Press 1 for our automated response system…." These are some of the findings determined by a survey of the members of The Society for the Advancement of Consulting, an international group of veteran consultants to management.

The group asked clients how to use technology to assist customers and build value. "The customer must feel that the experience has been shortened and is specific to their need," says SAC CEO Alan Weiss, Ph.D. "If the customer feels treated indifferently or suffers greater delay, the technology, while cost-efficient for the company, has lost money in terms of customer loyalty."

Erin Ferree, Principal of elf design, inc. in Belmont, CA gives the example that using email and technological responses are fine for issues that are repetitive and affect clients equally. "My clients get the benefit of a thorough response without my having to take the time on each occasion," she says. "And you can include logo, promotion, new ideas, and other benefits when you do so."

"You want to avoid the equivalent of the 'take a ticket' machine you find at grocery counters and motor vehicle lines," says Weiss. "Some of the best techniques include a periodic recording telling you where you are in the queue, much like the signs in Disneyland, which give more of a sense of progress to those waiting." The findings include suggestions such as an option to immediately speak to a human service person, tailoring electronic mailings to buying habits and demographics, and proactive tracking updates.

"Recently I received a product by mail without any instructions at all," says Weiss. "I had to call, complain, escalate the matter to management, and finally receive written help. The two-day transaction must have cost $3,000 in salary, benefits, and failure work. If they had simply had a web site with 'click here for product instructions' I would have been quite happy, but now I'll never buy from them again. Most companies are missing the boat."

SAC has a free tip sheet entitled "Ten Technology Customer Pleasers" which can be obtained by email to:, with "Technology Tips" in the subject line or message box.

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