A short history concerning customer service:
If you talk to your grandparents, chances are they can tell you about a time before customer service was its own industry when shopkeepers knew their names. If there was a problem with a product, they’d just go back to the store and fix the problem or get their money back. It seemed like all business owners could be trusted back then because they all formed part of the community. Business owners knew that if they wanted to stay in business, they needed referrals from happy customers. Besides, their customers were also their neighbors.
Since then, customer service has changed dramatically. In the 1960’s national call centers popped up to resolve customer issues. And although this was more efficient, it was also more impersonal. By the 1980s, companies were offloading any service extras that couldn’t be directly tied to their bottom line. Sure, they had to do some of this to keep prices competitive, but in the process, customer service began its downward spiral.
In the 1990s, things got even more impersonal with automated service call centers. You could dial one for this and two for that. Then, after waiting on hold for an hour before the call was disconnected, you could pick up the phone and start the process all over again. It seemed like some companies didn’t want to service their customers in the slightest. Many of us grew up to the business world telling us what our mothers had told us when we were kids: “You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit.” Some of us were rebellious to that idea as kids and as adults, but we were hard pressed to find a platform on which to voice our dissatisfactions.
Then along came the internet.
In the 2000s, we saw the advent of customer care software. Live chat options followed in the 2010s, while customers utilized the universality of social media to voice their opinions and concerns. Platforms like Yelp helped people distinguish “good” companies from “bad,” and Twitter and Facebook gave companies a new amplification platform and while providing their customers with an additional channel to seek support.
The companies that understood the current and future ROI of these one-on-one interactions adapted quickly. They began to bring back above-and-beyond customer service as a key component of their marketing strategies – something our grandparents would have expected in the first place.
Businesses that do not provide live chat, price matching, shipping guarantees, and identity theft protection just to name a few, are like self-absorbed traveling salesmen from back in the day. Sooner or later, people are going to catch on and swiftly kick them out of town.
Special thanks to Help Scout for their article on this topic.