We would all like to call Customer Service and come across a scene similar to the service of Omar and Fred’s shows. We come across a person who is not fixed solely on the process requested by his computer, but fixed on you: the client. But now, most of the time, it is not. For most large companies, particularly in telephony, the call platforms are located outside our borders, in countries where the brand does not even exist in the eyes of the general public. Why ? One objective: profitability…
But if it is understandable that a company seeks profitability at all costs, should it be done on the management of the brand’s customers? And yet, the customer is the most important asset of a brand, the one who pays the company, the one who makes it live and who, via social networks, can now more or less seriously impact the reputation of ‘A brand. Should it really be considered as a Customer Number in internal software? Hasn’t digitalization hurt traditional customer service?
Industrialization & Customer Service 2.0
In 2012, Bouygues Télécom had a call platform in Romania. Does Bouygues Télécom exist in Romania? No. So how can we imagine that a Romania-based teleconsultant, who has probably never known Bouygues Telecom services, could satisfy a client? It would be like calling the Nevers Tourist Office for advice on a trip to Paris. Therein lies the problem of current customer services: optimizing their profitability and not customer satisfaction.
This no longer seems to really shock us, our customers. We got used to it: we have a problem, we call customer service, and then we have a boring, complicated, sometimes unnecessary customer relationship. And in the end, we hang up while upset, without having the feeling of having been listened to. But how can brands afford to seek profitability on customer issues? Can you imagine your plumber telling you to call his associate in Senegal to explain your problem to him?
Faced with this problem of profitability, the development of social networks was a real boon for those responsible for customer relations and for communication directors. “We are entering the conversational era”, many have this phrase in their mouths, more by fashion within the profession than by utility. As we know, more and more resources are being invested in social networks, to the detriment of other channels of direct relationship with the client.
Recently, I had to open an EDF contract and one thing struck me. By wishing to open this contract, I had a faster response by Twitter than by phone! Digital evangelists will likely say “Of course, Twitter is great.” Yes, maybe, but 64 million people do not use Twitter in England … Look for the problem. Without Olivier, EDF’s Community Manager on Twitter, I would have waited more than 40 minutes on the phone to have a call center representative to open my contract. I didn’t even want to give them a problem, I just wanted to give them a client, give them my money. In the end, I would have preferred that the brand used several Olivier in their calling platform, rather than one Olivier on Twitter. Because I almost signed with Direct Energie and I come out with a very mixed opinion on EDF customer service despite the ultra-competence of the Community Manager.
Where did the human go?
In the same theme, this must have happened to you: go to an SFR store, Bouygues Telecom or other, explain your problem and have an answer “Ah for that, you have to call customer service”. But what do we do with humans? Because behind a problem, there is a person, a client, who may want to be treated face to face without going through a voice server.
In this approach, it is interesting to analyze the strategies of online banks. The real obstacle to switching to an online bank is effectively the absence of a physical presence in the event of financial glitches, urgent credit needs, etc. If we look at Soon, bank of the Axa group, we try to eliminate this drawback by putting people in the presentation of customer service.
But in the end, the conclusion is the same. Digital evangelism serves as an alibi for brands to install their supports on new services – chat, Twitter, Facebook – but obviously, nothing in physical (normal, “online banking”). So the observation is simple: you never come across the same advisor who is generally pushed to respond to problems as quickly as possible, and you forget about the human.
Processes, each brand needs them. But where brands are wrong is that they optimize processes to better manage the customer’s problem, and not processes to better treat THE customer. They are more concerned with solving the problem than treating the customer, which sometimes goes beyond a simple technical problem (notions of affection for the brand, problem in a shop, etc.).
Apple, the hidden advantage
In this area, there is a brand that we rarely talk about, but which serves as a reference: Apple. Behind its flagship products and its (somewhat lost) values of innovation and design, there is a real treasure that are the Apple Stores. As part of an after-sales service, these sales networks guarantee a real point of considerable support in the relationship with customers. Every Apple store, every Apple reseller is supposed to provide technical support when the customer has a problem. Indeed, where will you go if you have a problem with your iPhone? In an Apple Store. Ask yourself the same question with a Huawei phone…
Apple’s genius bar has truly become an undeniable competitive advantage. Compared to the examples seen above, Apple has understood everything about the process of managing a client. If we analyze this process applied in a Genius Bar, it does not seem to be a coincidence as it seems inspired by the medical field. This is an area that inspires confidence, but above all that deals with humans and not machines.
Let’s start with the visual identity of the Genius Bar, made up of an atom, a scientific and medical symbol. The image of the Genius Bar therefore directly relates to science, knowledge and the medical field.
Then let’s see the process followed by the client. Already, one cannot come without having made an appointment. Once the appointment arrives, we report to Apple staff and wait, as we would wait in a waiting room. Only old magazines have been replaced by MacBooks to brighten up your expectations.
Your “doctor” will pick you up at your waiting place and then ask you a whole series of questions to make his diagnosis. Let’s take a look at this Apple doctor, because like a traditional doctor, you will find that he is equipped with a small pouch including a number of accessories allowing him to diagnose your device. The doctor has his stethoscope, the Apple doctor has his tool bag.
Then there is the lexical field used by Apple employees with sometimes really striking allusions. Recently, my MacBook Air battery had to be replaced. Arriving at the end of the day at the Apple Store, the manager of the Genius Bar then said to me: “We are going to keep it for observation and testing tonight, we will call you back tomorrow”. In short, this is the Apple Products Hospital. But beyond that, Apple likes to make a “health check” of your Mac when it arrives, a Mac which also has its “health book” in Apple servers thanks to a unique serial number.
In the end, if this whole process is obviously standardized and taught to employees during training, for the client, this is almost invisible. And above all, the client has a human interface in his problem, that reassures him. For once, the brand is really close to its customers. It has a cost, but it builds loyalty… And at 700 € per phone, it’s worth it!
More than ever, brands must therefore challenge this system and remember that there is a human being at the end of their business. Not a surfer, not a telephone correspondent, but indeed a human. Whether it is a restaurant, a telephone operator, or a luxury brand, the customer needs consideration. He needs to be seen not as a machine that performs tasks, but as a person. And that must go beyond simple personalized advertising mail.