Lloyd Robert Borrett


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Saturday, September 18, 2004

The future of customer service 

The trend is pretty clear: move your customer support operations offshore to cut costs. After all, customer service is a cost, not a profit centre, and if you can cut those costs, you win.

Here is the plan:

Someone starts a service designed to cut customer service costs close to zero. The way it works: a computerised operation, totally turnkey, located on some desolate island with very low wages and just enough English. Any firm with a customer service 'problem' can hire them -- they can handle dozens of clients at once. The extremely polite operators answer with the name of the firm and use a database to keep track of all the information they receive. They keep people on hold for as long as possible (but not a moment longer) and then transfer them to someone else.

The goal is make the customer feel as though the operators are doing their best, but of course, to never actually DO anything. Keep track of the conversations and the record numbers. Keep transferring people. Promise to call back, never do. Sooner or later, the customer gives up and walks away. (If the firm does their job right, the customer blames himself, at least a little bit, for not being more patient.)

End result? Not only are operator costs saved, but you don't even have to fix any products!

But then again, maybe I am too late. For it seems this is the new leading-edge customer service strategy already being employed by many leading companies. The short-term results are so good that profits are up. So are CEO salary packages. Given that the average tenure for today's typical CEO is just three years, dealing with the long-term negative consequences to the company of such a customer service strategy will be the next CEO's problem.


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