Is the Best Service Still No Service?

Ten years ago, a book was published titled The Best Service is No Service: Liberate Your Customers from Customer Service, Keep Them Happy, and Control Costs. It suggested that companies could better serve their customers by finding ways to hear less from them.

That theory has been widely embraced over the past decade. Most basic transactions can now be handled online through smartphones, and websites and social media can answer the straightforward questions, eliminating the need for a phone call or email.

But is it always that simple? Do you really stand a better chance of keeping your customers by keeping them at a distance?

Perhaps the next ten years will provide the answer. However, there is no one strategy that will fit at every company. Contact centers serve a variety of roles depending on the business they represent. Some routinely field technical questions that require detailed explanations. Some medical contact centers will receive calls from patients or family members who are concerned about an illness or a prescription, and would prefer to speak to an empathetic agent who can put their fears to rest, or get them the help they need.

For those customers, having more channels with a self-serve component is not the answer.

Let’s also acknowledge that there is a service component to the “no service” options the book described. Someone has to create the website and the social media pages. Now that companies have these channels, the next goal should be to make it even easier for customers to find what they need there. By analyzing the types of questions and actions customers engage in online, companies can position that information more prominently.

Eliminating “service” as it is defined in that book is impossible. The real objective the authors expressed is eliminating the kind of (in their words) “dumb” phone calls and emails that tie up agents’ time. If these could be shifted to automated, online and less costly channels, it will free up agents to handle more difficult engagements.

While adding more communication channels is always good, there are always going to be times when person-to-person communication is going to deliver better results.

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