“The software is the brand”– John McCarthy – Forrester Research
Customer service makes companies like Nordstrom or American Express stand out. They have mastered the art of providing an outstanding experience to their customers. Your expectations are high when you talk to representatives of these companies, whether you have an inquiry or are seeking help to solve a problem. The marketing and advertising world calls these interactions “Moments of Truth.”
I’ve seen some of the training that goes on at the call centers of many consumer companies. The best organizations are relentless, and pay attention to every single detail. They pay attention to the language, the attentiveness of the operators and exude a keen ability to listen to the customer. Some go to the extremes of placing mirrors next to the Customer Service Representatives’ (CSR) screens so they remember to smile while on the call, because when they smile it is somehow permeated to the person on the other side of the line.
What happens when the CSR is not a person, but a piece of software? For a variety of reasons, today most interactions between user and company are now through software.
Sometimes it is the company pushing software solutions, mainly for economic reasons, but other times it is the customer making the choice out of convenience. It is easier for me to open the Citibank app from my iPhone, than it is to call, navigate through the different options of the phone menu (sometimes missing the option and going through the options a second time) to finally speak with a representative. Checkin counters at airports are fully automated, if not irrelevant due to mobile or on-line checkin options. Many supermarkets have installed self-service checkout counters. The Apple Store app is a full-service CSR when you are inside a physical Apple Store, allowing you to browse through product features, scan the item, pay for it and be on your way.
To add to an already complex scenario, we also need to consider that the first “Moment of Truth”
of a customer may not be when at the time the product is purchased or the app is opened. A couple of years ago, Google started promoting the concept of “Zero Moment of Truth,” aka ZMOT , which refers to all the research that consumers do online before making a purchase.
They search, they watch videos, they read reviews, they ask their network before making a purchase decision. Customers will use the company’s software tools and third parties such as Facebook, Amazon.com, Yelp or TripAdvisor. Engaging with customers in the Now Economy requires a great deal of attention to all these software platforms, company owned or not.
Focusing on providing an outstanding customer experience through software interfaces will prove to be highly profitable for companies, very much has been the case for American Express and Nordstrom with training customer representatives. In the early days of the World Wide Web, at Softtek I used to encourage companies to pay close attention to their websites. Using the CSR mirror metaphor, I’d ask my clients: “Is your website smiling back at your customer?” I guess today the question would still apply, but it goes way beyond a simple website. As John McCarthy, Principal Analyst at Forrester research, said in a February 2013 Interview : “The software is the brand. When I’m using the software, the mobile application, the analytics behind it, that is how I’m experiencing the company.”