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Customer empowerment is changing the way brands and organizations think about customer service -from smartphones putting all major service channels in the palms of consumers’ hands 24 hours a day/seven days a week, to social media providing customers with a megaphone for asking questions, voicing complaints or expressing delight. 

In a recent podcast with The Service Council’s Chief Customer Officer and former Aberdeen analyst Sumair Dutta, Bill Patterson of Microsoft answered questions around the current state and near future of customer service. When asked by Dutta what has been the most revolutionary change in the last ten years that has enabled customer service to move forward, Patterson, who is the General Manager of Service Engagement from Microsoft, cited the availability of technology both for the customer and the agent.

Power to the People

Noted Patterson, “the PCs or computers that we carry in our pockets today are now more powerful than most server farms were 30 years ago. That power and the empowerment of consumers has been both a fundamental technology and cultural transformation. 

“With that power, customers have now taken engagement with brands to new public forums. We now connect with peers that we don’t even really know, but that we trust based on online interactions with them to make decisions about the products we purchase. Companies are still trying to react to and respond to this for how they think of and deliver customer service.”

Empowering Employees

When asked by Dutta if he thought the overall state of customer service was declining, about the same or significantly improving, Patterson explained that it’s easy to gauge the state of customer service from the extreme cases covered by the media, but that realistically, “you have to look at the mean instead of extremes.

"Think of yourself as an individual,” said Patterson. “What has your average customer service engagement been? I think the intent is that all organizations are trying to evolve, but for the most part, they’re locked within the policies and processes and technologies of the past – and I think that the rate and pace of change for most businesses has been too much to handle.

"I’m often asked, ‘how do I become the leading brand in my industry for customer service excellence?’ And I respond, that while that’s an important question, I think all consumers are asking you to be is better than average. Because currently most customer service interactions are either average or sub-par.

“I think what we need to think about to get started is how to increase the mean by one standard deviation, versus how do we all run to the far right edge of that bell curve. But if you do want to run to the far right of that bell curve, it’s more than just changing customer service. Your company has to operate differently; your products have to be built differently; your policies and metrics for how you reward and rate and incentivize your employees have to be fundamentally reworked and with that change.

“Go beyond the transactional view,” advised Patterson. “Each interaction matters to build a real relationship with a particular consumer. Every interaction, every engagement, every experience that a consumer has with a particular organization they do business with has to be seen as a way to move that relationship forward. Most organizations think of themselves, and measure customer service teams today, on the size or duration of an interaction, not really the impact. To move forward, we have to go beyond measuring activities and instead measure outcomes.”

Want to hear the complete 30-minute conversation between Dutta and Patterson? Click here to play the podcast.

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Get More Best Practices: Watch these Webinars

Interested in learning more about the importance of knowledge for improving customer service across channels? Watch the recorded webinar Connecting with Customers Across Channels featuring insights and best practices from Nucleus Research VP Rebecca Wettemann, Microsoft GM for Service Engagement Bill Patterson and Chobani Strategic Solution Manager Mary Mercury.

Or, learn about on the impact of knowledge management for multichannel customer service in our UK team-led webinar featuring ThinkJar Principal and Founder Esteban Kolsky, Ask.com Global Customer Care Manager Eric McKirdy and Microsoft’s Bill Patterson. Click here to listen to this webinar.

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