I originally published today’s post for StellaConnect. It appeared on their site on May 25, 2021.

Customer service is an important part of not only the customer experience but also the success of a business. Get it wrong and a lot of other pieces of the customer experience and the customer relationship with your brand might (will) fall apart. According to Microsoft, 96% of consumers around the world say customer service is an important factor when it comes to brand loyalty.

It’s that notion, getting things wrong, that sparked the idea for this article; there are more than five things that everyone gets wrong about customer service, but here are five that you should take into account as you think about the customer service your company offers.

1.  Customer service and customer experience are the same thing.

Customer experience is the sum of all the interactions – and includes product and price – that a customer has with an organization over the life of the “relationship” with that company – and, more importantly, the feelings, emotions, and perceptions the customer has about those interactions. Customer service is one of those interactions.

Customer experience is proactive, while customer service is reactive. Customer experience is proactive because we intentionally build or design the experience that we want our customers to have – and that they want to have. Customer service is reactive in the sense that we’re constantly responding to issues and needs as they arise.

2.  Customer service experience starts and stops at the call center.

To add to #1, consider this. Chris Zane, CEO of Zane’s Cycles, says that customer service is what happens when the customer experience breaks down. Design and deliver a great experience – from marketing to sales to product to documentation and beyond – and you’ll surely reduce the need for customers to contact customer service. Get it right, and you’ll make customers happy, and you’ll reduce the load for your contact center.

People contact customer service when the product isn’t working right; the documentation isn’t clear; marketing set expectations that the product didn’t deliver; sales sold the dream and not what the product actually does; the invoice is not accurate or hard to decipher; or for a variety of other reasons. Something (i.e., the experience) broke down somewhere upstream, long before the customer even thought about calling – or even wanted to call – customer service.

This call isn’t customer service’s fault. This isn’t a breakdown in service; this is a breakdown in the experience. And so, customer service takes the beating and the anguish from the customer for something that could’ve been designed better upstream. Had that proper design occurred, the number of frustrated customers calling the call center would have been drastically reduced.

3.  The customer is always right.

This saying has been around for a long time. It excites some people and anguishes others. It’s a fun mantra to tout in company meetings to get everyone excited about delivering great service for the customer. For others, it’s the slogan that has dollar signs and runaway freebies streaming through their brains. So let’s set the record straight.

No, the customer is not always right. But – she is the customer. That means that you should always listen, be kind, be respectful, and do right by the customer. Don’t disagree with the customer. Don’t argue with the customer. Trust her. Listen, be thoughtful, and try to fix whatever has created pain for her in a way that leaves her satisfied and wanting to come back and buy again.

4. Agents will lose their jobs to AI and automation.

Automation is a hot topic right now. I’ve been talking about it a lot lately, and one of the questions often asked is about agents (or other employees) losing their jobs as a result of the push to automation. But here’s the thing: companies aren’t looking to automate people right now; they’re looking to automate processes. There’s a big difference. Automating processes is about taking the menial, mundane, and repetitive tasks and procedures off employees’ plates so that they can focus on doing more value-add tasks, like building customer relationships and handling more difficult issues and inquiries that require human thought and decision making.

AI and automation can help agents do their jobs more efficiently, assisting them while they are on a call with a customer, making them faster and more productive. Customers benefit because of  faster response times, shorter handle times, first call resolution, and getting matched to the appropriate agent without being transferred or escalated multiple times.

5. Customers only want to talk to humans/agents for issue resolution.

As another counterpoint to the rise of AI and automation in contact centers, there’s this notion that when customers need help, they only want to speak to an agent. Not so fast. American Express found that more than 60% of U.S. consumers say that, for simple inquiries, they’ll use digital self-service, such as your website, mobile app, IVR, or chatbot. What’s important here is to (a) get your self-service channels in order, and (b) ensure that there’s always an easy way for customers to reach out to your agents, should they need more help. The convenience of these self-help options, available at all times of the day and night, are appealing to customers who are looking for quick answers to “easy” problems or questions. Probably not surprising, though: American Express cited that, as customers’ issues become more complex, they are more likely to (want to) speak to an agent.

Acknowledging these myths, righting your wrongs, and ensuring that your customer service experience delivers accordingly will go miles toward increasing agent and customer satisfaction, brand loyalty, and cost savings realized from operational efficiencies – all worthy outcomes, no doubt! 

To keep a customer demands as much skill as to win one. –American Proverb

Annette Franz is an internationally recognized customer experience thought leader, coach, speaker, and author. In 2019, she published her first book, Customer Understanding: Three Ways to Put the “Customer” in Customer Experience (and at the Heart of Your Business); it’s available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle formats. In 2021, she wrote the manuscript for her second book, Built to Win: Designing a Customer-Centric Culture that Drives Value for Your Business, which will be available in early 2022! Sign up for our newsletter for updates, insights, and other great content that you can use to up your CX game.

Image courtesy of Alvaro Reyes on Unsplash.