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Disagree With Customer Service/Social Media Fanatics At Your Own Risk

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Customer Service & Social Media Zealots Both Intolerant, and Short-Sighted (oh, and nasty, too)

There are some smart insightful folks on social media who write about customer service. Or at least I think there must be. I’m pretty convinced there are. Maybe. There has to be more than one or two. Somewhere.

Actually, it may be a fault with social media per se that it generally does not stimulate in depth discussions about customer service beyond platitudes and empty statements. I’m still of the opinion that the real deal folks — the people who provide really good advice about customer service to real clients on a daily basis simply have better things to do than tweet, facebook and link(ed)In, which is why we get the chaff, and almost no wheat. If you want to tune in on a regular basis to wade thru the crapola platitudes of “experts” who then congratulate each other on their prowess search around for the #custserv chat. It’s on Twitter.

I digress. Here’s an interesting conversation (I guess that’s stretching it a bit) with a person who is SO expert in customer service that he can tell me, and you and you over there, what you SHOULD do, despite the fact that he’s never met you, never heard of your business, and knows nothing about your business. But, heck that doesn’t stop people from mouthing off and giving us all advice.

His name is John @Hornbeck. Here’s a snapshot of his original post, which, not surprisingly is made to the #custserv folks. You can see that he’s telling us all what we SHOULD do. I’ve been in the field of customer service for two decades +, and not even I could read the minds of people I’ve never met before to know what they SHOULD do.

So, of course, I had to ask our friend John exactly how he knew what I SHOULD do with my business. and so, on the left hand side below you will see some of that conversation. They interchange is in reverse order, so read from the bottom to follow.

Basically I suggested that to presume to tell businesses what they SHOULD do when you know nothing about their businesses was arrogant. And I asked him how he could possibly know what I should do, or someone else he doesn’t know anything about.

Well, folks, don’t do this at home, folks because people get mad. If you follow the thread it’s quite funny as this guy (who is probably very nice in real life) struggles to avoid the question, which I repeated four times. Then you can see at the top that faced with not having an answer, or not actually understanding the question, his response is “Your site is broken” Ouch!

The Point

I don’t write these posts to single out people to humiliate them, but I do happen to believe that we are all accountable for what we say publicly. However, the real point is what we can learn from this.

Some topics naturally attract people who know very little about those topics by virtue of the fact that they have some narrow experience about the thing. Education is one of those. Everyone thinks they understand how to make our educational system better, simply because they have been students in the educational system. While their views and experience are relevant, it’s a narrow perspective. It’s one thing to make suggestions about how to improve education from the viewpoint of an outsider, and it’s a completely different thing to have to balance all the factors and variables if you are actually in charge of making the school system better. But “lay” people don’t understand those variables. It’s the same with government, for example, and it’s the same with customer service.

Everyone is a customer of someone, but that limited perspective does not give everyone an understand of customer service, how it works, and how it links up to the management of a business. That’s why we get ludicrous platitudes from people who’s sole qualifications regarding customer service are that they buy things from others. That’s why we get the chaff.

Here’s a tip, particularly applicable to separate the customer service charlatans from the true experts on social media. If you see a person telling all businesses what they SHOULD do, they are BS artists who do not understand customer service from a business perspective. When you see people spouting platitudes about customer service (I’ll share some in future articles), you know that it’s almost certain that the platitudes is “all they gots”.

And What About John’s Customer Service Command?

Well, he’s wrong. When you realize that customer service is not a religious obligation, and understand that customer service is a business tool, you will also understand that there is a point where you do NOT want to improve customer service in your business. When you stop thinking like a customer, and start thinking like a business, your thinking broadens out, because you can put customer service in context.

It’s kind of interesting to look at the REALITY of customer service, rather than the religious approach to it. I’m as in favor of the best customer service I can get, when I’m a customer, but I recognize that there are actually good reasons why most major companies offer customer service at levels far below what one would want. Those reasons are business reasons. As a customer HP drives me nuts, as does Dell, as does my telephone company, and on and on. But I’ll also say that if I’m a shareholder in those same companies, I expect something different. I’ll let you in on a secret, and this goes out to my friend Cory. If most companies gave customers everything they wanted, they would be out of business. That’s the business reality. Are there exceptions? Yes. But for every ZAPPOS, there are a hundred HP’s.

Moral of the story: Before you tell companies what they SHOULD be doing, maybe understand their industries, contexts, business model, costs, overhead….well, you get it.

(I inadvertently referred to Mr. Hornbeck as Cory. His name is John, and I apologize to him for getting it wrong. Don’t know what I was thinking. R.B.)

About Company

Bacal & Associates was founded in 1992. Since then Robert has trained thousands of employees to deal with angry, hostile, abusive and potentially violent customers. He has authored over 20 books on various subjects, many published by McGraw-Hill.

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