Why IT is the winning card in your battle for customers

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Customer experience is now a primary business differentiator and this ‘soft’ discipline is defined by something traditionally worlds away from the service department - IT. Eric Wright explains why IT is leading the charge to win and retain customers.

Customer service and IT: two business departments often categorised by stereotypes. To understand why IT has become so central to customer experience, it’s useful to breakdown these stereotypes.  

The customer service stereotype
Customer service is being friendly and helpful. It’s about empathy and communication. It’s the ‘face’ of the business.

The IT stereotype
Technical, digital, process and stats driven. Faceless, unemotional, impersonal.   

We all recognise truths and exaggerations in these stereotypes.  However, what if we turn these preconceptions on their head?

The customer service reality
Heavily process and stats driven because of the requirement to minimise costs. Stressed, underpaid and transient workers deliver a cold, impersonal service.

The IT reality
The first point of customer contact - IT is now regularly the ‘face’ of the business. Being helpful is now based on the quality of communication channels and interface customers use to get support.     

IT and customer service have previously been seen as mutually exclusive disciplines. Yet as this exercise demonstrates, not only to they overlap considerably, one cannot exist without the other.

When did this happen and why?

Our collective understanding of customer service and IT have changed significantly in recent years. IT was once seen as predominately a labour saving device. Now it is central to all business operations. This shift didn’t happen overnight - it takes time for attitudes to change.

The same is true for customer service. We often incorrectly define customer service as fixing problems reported by a customer.  However, when a customer contacts a supplier because something has gone wrong, this isn’t customer service. It’s a customer service failure.

Good customer service means things happen as described at the time and price advertised. Good customer service means the customer doesn’t have to contact the supplier.

The majority of our customer interactions take place independent of a person or the customer service department. And for this reason, IT now defines the customer experience more frequently and profoundly than the customer service department.

In other words, customer service isn’t the touchy-feely interaction, it’s the experience of the customer at each point they have dealings with an organisation. 

This revised definition is why the term ‘customer experience’ has become more popular. The term ‘customer service’ has such an entrenched and incorrect meaning - call centres, the service department dealing with customers in isolation - that it needed to be replaced with something more accurate and sufficiently different to help change perceptions.

By taking sole responsibility for managing customers away from the ‘Department’, it becomes clear that there are myriad ‘touchpoints’ which affect how customers feel about the organisation. And naturally, these touchpoints are typically now digital.

Take the classic example of Amazon. The retail giant has very satisfied customers.  But trying to contact Amazon is very difficult.  This is because Amazon’s systems are designed so that customers don’t have to go to the trouble of fixing them.  The systems are so effective and user-friendly that customers rarely encounter a problem.

In other words, while offering almost nothing which resembles “customer service”, Amazon is able to deliver a great customer experience.  Think about that for a second.  Amazon’s customer experience isn’t delivered by people answering phones or email.  It’s provided by IT.      

While offering almost nothing which resembles “customer service”, Amazon is able to deliver a great customer experience. Amazon’s customer experience isn’t delivered by people answering phones or email.  It’s provided by IT.

The majority of our customer interactions take place independent of a person or the customer service department. And for this reason, IT now defines the customer experience more frequently and profoundly than the customer service department.  

Of course, behind the scenes, people are building the IT which defines the customer experience. The big difference is that whereas previously employers sought empathy, people skills and communications to improve their customer experience, now they need people who understand systems, customer journeys and user interfaces. It’s a great opportunity for IT professionals to solidify their value and the starting point is realising that when it comes to defining the customer experience, IT now holds the winning hand.

Do you want to improve your customer experience? Creating an effective customer service portal is a great starting point, take a look at our drag and drop customer workflow technology to see how.