Shep Hyken's Customer Service Blog

What Has Changed in Customer Service?

Every week, I’m asked, “What is changing in customer service?” The expected answer is that I’ll talk about all the new ways customer service and support is conducted – and I do. There’s self-service solutions that include robust frequently asked questions and video. There’s social media customer service with multiple channels like Facebook and Twitter. And, AI (Artificial Intelligence) that the experts – myself included – say will potentially change everything.

Yes, there is a lot that is changing about how we deliver customer service, so I’m about to make a bold statement. If you look at what customer service is, it is the same as it was fifty years ago. And, it will be the same fifty years from now. Customer service is just a customer needing help, having a question answered or a problem resolved. And, in the end the customer is happy. That’s it. When it comes to the customer’s expectations, they are the same. In other words:

Nothing has changed in customer service!

Okay, maybe it’s better said a different way. When it comes to the outcome of a customer service experience, the customer’s expectations haven’t changed. They just want to be taken care of.

That said, there are different ways to reach the outcome. What has changed is the way we go about delivering service. We’ve figured out how to do it faster – and even better. Back “in the day,” which wasn’t that long ago – maybe just twenty or so years ago – there was typically just two ways that customer service was provided: in person and over the phone. Then technology kicked in and we started making service and support better and more efficient.

For example, for those choosing to focus on the phone for support, there is now a solution that lets customers know how long they have to wait on hold. And sometimes customers are given the option of being called back at a time that is more convenient if they don’t have time to wait. We now have many other channels our customers can connect with us. Beyond the phone, there is email, chat, social media channels and more.

So, as you are thinking about implementing a new customer service solution, adding AI to support your customers and agents, or deciding which tools you want to use, remember this:

The customer’s expectations haven’t changed. They just want to be taken care of, regardless of how you go about it. It starts with someone needing help, dealing with a problem, upset about something or just wanting to have a question answered. It ends with that person walking away knowing they made the right decision to do business with you. How you get from the beginning to the end is not nearly as important as how they feel when they walk away, hang up the phone or turn off their computer.

It’s really the same as it’s always been.

Shep Hyken is a customer service expert, keynote speaker and New York Times bestselling business author. For information contact or www.hyken.com. For information on The Customer Focus™ customer service training programs go to www.thecustomerfocus.com. Follow on Twitter: @Hyken

(Copyright © MMXVII, Shep Hyken)

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  1. Shep, I agree with the premise of the article- customer service is what it always has been and is what it always will be. Also, I agree that it’s the delivery of customer service that HAS changed significantly. You are right about technology being the major shift but I also believe tech is a major contributor to the downfall of service excellence, at least from my small-town, small-business point of view. We are missing the component where customers feel like they are valued human beings. When we see an improvement in the soft skill of engagement- smiles, eye contact, manners, etc. we will see a revival of customer service and an increase in brick & mortar profitability. Technology in this “social” era has made a large portion of our customer service “professionals” anything but and that, to my belief is a huge hindrance to great service delivery.

    • You are correct, and that is the point I was trying to make. Customers come to you for help. You help them. They walk away happy. It doesn’t matter how they contact you or what technology you use. The customer should feel take care of, happy and confident about the choice to do business with you. I do see what you have noticed. Sometimes customer service goes down because the company (and the reps) miss opportunities and let technology take over when there should be a human-to-human connection.

  2. Over here in Africa, very little has changed in customer service. Companies still use the 80-20 strategy. Where 80% of attention is dedicated to serving the 20% that lay 80% of the eggs. And so 80% of the common customers are given less attention. It hurts to be a common customer here.

    • The problem with that thinking is that once in a while part of the 80% becomes one of the elite 20% – and then they remember how they were treated and move on to another company.

      • Sir, I admit that customers do remember. However, most customers over here do not remember enough. And that is why companies can still retain huge patronage in the midst of poor customer services. There is brand loyalty change inertia here. And it puts to question the effectiveness of the customer experience remembrance.

  3. At a basic level customer expectations haven’t changed – as you say Shep they just want to be taken care of. And that doesn’t matter what the channel is. However they are now more demanding and unlikely to put up with poor service. That’s why organizations need to focus on creating a service-led culture in their business and ensuring everyone has the customer’s needs at heart. More here

    • Agree Pauline! And, yes customers are more demanding than ever… because they know what good customer service should be. So, if a company promises good service, they had better deliver. And, even if they don’t, the company must recognize that they are being compared to not just their competitors, but any business where a customer received good service.

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