I’m a subscriber to The Economist, not because I have a background in economics or because I used to work for part of The Economist Group, a number of years ago. I’m a subscriber because I like the magazine, their reportage, their style but not all of their opinions.

However, from time to time they do come out with the most pithy and sobering of pieces and thoughts. One such piece came out a few issues ago in the Schumpeter column titled: The magic of good service. It’s subtitle was: “Companies hope that ‘chief customer officers’ will provide better service. Yeah, right.” I’d encourage you to go and read it and the lively debate and the customer service “feedback” that The Economist gets in the comments.

Back to the column which starts by saying:

“THE customer is king. So some firms have started appointing chief customer officers (CCOs) to serve the king more attentively. These new additions to the (already crowded) C-suite are supposed to look at the business from the customer’s point of view. They try to focus on the entire “customer experience”, rather than on individual transactions.”

The column goes on to try and pour ‘cold water’ on much of what is written in Harley Manning and Kerry Bodine’s new book: Inside Out (see my interview with Kerry Bodine here). That all feels a little “Bah, humbug!” However, it does finish with a pithy thought:

“Phone a firm that has appointed a chief customer officer and see if you can reach a human being. If not, that CCO might as well be tossed from an executive-floor window, no doubt clutching his collection of “journey maps” and “customer archetypes”.

Now, I believe, technology can solve many of our problems, much of the time. But, as the column implies, there will be times that we just want to reach out to another human, to have someone to talk to, who will listen and who will help. That may be a little old-school or old-fashioned but we are human and we like human contact, particularly at times when we are unsure, at risk, nervous, feeling vulnerable etc etc.

So, if you are thinking about developing, revamping, reinventing, remapping or whatever you plan on doing to your customer experience in the near future………..Try not to build a system which focuses on how you would like the customer to interact with you, build one, instead, based on how the customer would like to interact with you.

That is likely to include some face to face contact or the ability to speak to speedily speak to someone on the phone, depending on your business model. You may not like it and it may not be the most cost-effective method of delivering service. But, your customers are your customers and they know what they like, when they like it.

Peter Drucker said it best when he said:

“The purpose of business is to create and keep a customer.”

It’s good to remember that sometimes the simplest of things can really help us keep our customers.

Thanks to zen for the image.

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