Everyone Must Run Customer Service

“Customer service shouldn’t just be a department, it should be the entire company.” – Tony Hsieh

Customers are becoming increasingly demanding and seek to interact with companies when they want and through a channel / channels that is most convenient for them. This is irrespective of the service they seek – a response to a simple query, resolution of a problem, sharing their experiences – both good and bad, or any other nature of service. Every company must understand that customers do not have time to wait or the inclination to understand why even one person in the organization would not be adept at providing service. Given these ‘tall orders’, it has become imperative for a company to ensure that everyone working in it is able to run customer service. The quote by Tony Hsieh, the successful founder of Zappos, rings true for every company operating in any industry and irrespective of the size of their business. Despite customers expecting a permeating sense of customer service, there are still some companies debating as to who should run customer service and there are several approaches and thought processes.

Traditionally, the customer service and marketing teams were expected to lead the front and manage the service provided to customers. Some companies believe that customers should run customer service – what is your company’s view?

Given that a company first connects with customers through their marketing teams, it seemed that they would have the maximum direct interaction with customers, and hence would be the most equipped to manage service to customers. However, given that the individuals in these teams have a completely different set of skills and aptitude – aggressive selling and being pushy being two important skill sets – they would be completely ill-equipped to manage the queries from customers or provide solutions to their problems. Customer service people are expected to be composed, non-aggressive, and mild when interacting with customers and hence the expectation from the marketing teams to run customer service would seem misplaced. In addition, if the marketing teams were to be caught up in answering customer service queries, they would be unable to focus on their core jobs.

It would seem obvious and self-explanatory that the service teams should run customer service. Centralizing customer service within this team, it would seem, would help a company to provide consistent and integrated service across channels of communication. However, given that technology is changing every day and a company continues to add more customers, a single team could find it hard to keep pace. In any case, silo-based service leads to breakdown in communication between teams, increases workload, and as a result, customers receive shoddy service.

With so many avenues through which to communicate with each other and companies, customers it would seem can be equipped to run customer service on their own. Through online discussions and ‘community’ forums, customers are able to help themselves and each other. This would mean that companies would be able to save huge costs and time by not being involved in customer service matters. However, customers can help themselves and others only to a certain extent, and using this approach a company would lose the connection and relationships they build over time, which translates to a loss of control over how customers view the company. In addition, the company stops gaining from the insights and feedback that customers provide when they interact directly with a company. Lastly, even if customers try to run customer service on their own, if anything does go wrong, it would ultimately be the fault of the company, which could mean a loss of customers and reputation.

Customer service is far too broad a realm to be left to anyone group or team in particular. Customers demand and expect that they are made to feel valued and important and that the company cares for their concerns. Given the rise of competitors and the unrelenting efforts of companies to grow and widen their customer base, it just makes more sense that each person in a company be responsible for and take the onus to run customer service. There is strength in numbers and huge benefits for the ‘all hands on deck’ approach. When each person in the company works towards common goals and stands to gain from working cohesively, the result is usually nothing short of magic. A company that can provide its customers with service excellence at each touch-point and through every interaction, in a way, insures its success and a formidable market position.

There are many upsides, to everyone in the company responsible to run customer service. Most importantly, customers get consistently better service since the customer service team would have a larger team it can depend on and the insecurity of working in a silo is dissipated. The fact is that no one team can solely run customer service efficiently and effectively. For example – using technology means that the service teams would face problems and need the help of the IT team to help. The speed and efficiency with which the IT team is able to resolve their problems, would in turn determine how well the service team is able to perform with regard to serving customers.

When each person in the company understands the intricacies of customer service and the challenges that both customers and the service teams face, they would be more inclined to help. By being exposed to all kinds of customers, each person in the organization gets a ‘first-hand’ understanding of what customers think of the company and its products, which in turn leads them to work better such that the company remains successful. The success of the company would determine the success of each person in it. The other advantage of everyone in the company responsible to run customer service is that the diverse skills and intelligence of a larger base of employees would help the company, overcome problems, and tackle tough situations better. The solutions that come up would be a lot more effective and innovative, the decisions taken would be speedier – resulting in better service to customers. As customers perceive higher standards of service, better solutions, and speedier turnaround, they would be more likely to engage and stay with the company for longer.

The fact is that when the customer facing teams have support, they become more confident, have more time to gain new skills, attend value-added training programs – all leading to each team member becoming more efficient and building the capability to handle twice as much workload. With high efficiency and output, a company would save huge amounts of money and effort in recruiting more people to do the same amount of work.

In addition, when each member of the company learns empathy towards customers, they understand the value of also being empathetic towards one another. This leads to a collaborative and relatively stress-free work place that everyone enjoys being a part of and spending time. Getting the entire company to run customer service is an idea that can change the face of company’s business and lead it becoming a stalwart and authority in the realm of serving customers. This is in turn would attract more customers, lead to enhanced revenues and profits, and over time make a company highly sustainable and successful, irrespective of the market environment in the future too. Who runs customer service at your company?

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