“The customer is always right”, a phrase originally coined in 1909 by Harry Gordon Selfridge, (founder of Selfridge’s department store) which exhorts service staff to give a high priority to customer satisfaction. To this day the idea behind customer service hasn’t changed, but how we go about has. Customer service has had many different approaches over the last 100 years and in today’s digital world, the rules of customer service continue to change faster than ever.
Customer service has come a relatively long way in a short space of time. There used to be only a handful of ways to communicate with a company; there was a time when we use to write a wordy letter and wait patiently for a reply, or return a defective product to a store; the infamous call centre is probably one of the earliest “modern” customer service tools that we all remember. From the mid-nineties the World Wide Web supported email based customer service followed soon after by live chat support – all of which are still in use today. But the real game changer in customer service expectations accelerated with the introduction of social media, review platforms and of course the launch of the iPhone.
With the explosion in mediums, devices and platforms, there are now multiple ways a customer can communicate with a company or business. Furthermore we have also come to expect timely, proactive, effortless interactions and personable service experiences; 89% of customers say personalized support is extremely important to them—to be treated as an individual, and not just a ticket number.
When it comes to B2B customer service interactions we expect no less, if anything we expect more. Unfortunately countless businesses haven’t quite caught up to speed with this new world yet. Many hoteliers with legacy software systems are still on the receiving end of suppliers who are still providing an 1980’s style customer support; with internal dysfunction, old CRM technologies and lack of a customer oriented culture continue to contribute to poor customer experiences leading to a lot of frustration, stress and many headaches. Helpdesks, built on the support ticket or email support paradigm, are no longer applicable or fit for purpose in customer service communication today.
But hooray for SaaS! The SaaS business model is one that embraces customer service and relies on providing great customer service because their lives depend on it. Basically with SaaS happy customers drive the SaaS business model ROI; end-user engagement and value are critically important to them, as the recurring revenue model drives the shift of profitability from upfront to the entire length of the customer lifecycle.
SaaS customer support essentially functions as an extension of the your IT department – for hoteliers it means no more making calls to customer support, within “business hours” that is, waiting on hold only to be told to reboot the system, transferred to another department to receive a ticket, waiting for a fix or some troubleshooting options for your legacy system, the list goes on!
Customer service certainly has evolved and today, good customer service is more important than ever. Currently some companies are doing an amazing job of being on the forefront of providing great customer service, such as the SaaS business model and others are still struggling with the basics. Forward-thinking businesses know that it is a critical part of success, and will be even more critical in the future. For those providing the bear minimum, the message is clear, the sooner you invest in customer success, the better.