Customer Service Symposium speaks the truth, but who is Listening?

Posted: 8 November 2012

During the 5th Quadrant Customer Service Industry Symposium this week, the message was clear that the future of customer service is an evolving beast.

After a few warm-up exercises to wake up the crowd, keynote speaker Dr. Catriona Wallace covered some interesting research based on the theme of “consumer power”.  The consumer power economy is a construct that captures the shifting power and relationships between organisations and their customers. It’s a fact, consumers are becoming increasingly empowered through the rise of social media, smartphones, flexible cloud models and mobile apps. The power is now in their hands – organisations must stand up to adapt. Consumers are demanding customer service from more and more channels and dictating their own terms.

Chris Kirby, Head of Research at 5th Quadrant shared some insight on social media and mobile apps as customer service channels. I was amazed at the high proportion of those surveyed who said they don’t use mobile apps for customer service simply because they didn’t know they could. So, no matter how good the technology is unless the customer is educated, you won’t see results.

And a further point to this on another theme discussed at the symposium – customers are still making decisions primarily based on price, product as well as terms and conditions. There is no thought given to the customer service experience when making that choice. The customer service is actually not revealed until after the contract is signed – so the consumer has to accept what they get. If consumers are happy to make decisions based on experience, let them understand that service is part of the sales process. How many people go back to the same coffee shop because the experience was friendly and personal, even if the coffee was not the best? Or return to the same hotel after being treated like royalty, even if it was not the five-star option? What are your thoughts?

The interactive panel session was a great format, with Australian Contact Centre leaders such as Daniel Bergan from Westpac, Brady Jacobsen Australia Post, and Woolworth’s Peter Heywood. Listening to how these companies are heeding the call of “consumer power” and pioneering richer customer interactions shows there are organisations heading in the right direction. After all this forward thinking, what is the customer service industry going to do about it and how long will it take for the rest of the industry to get on board and accept consumer power?

Great work 5th Quadrant on delivering excellent insights.

Now let’s see who was listening and how organisations will adapt.