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Less than 20 years ago, the key to selling yourself and demonstrating good customer service was to promote how great you were.
After all, if you didn't blow your own horn, who would? Selling yourself was the only way anyone could learn about you and your company. And it was the only way your clients would understand and remember what you'd done for them.
In those simpler times, two simple words, “CUSTOMER SERVICE,” said everything you needed to know about being successful:
- Your CUSTOMER would show up.
- You would provide SERVICE.
But today, we each carry a magical wafer of silicon and glass that gives us instant access to all the world's knowledge. This means your potential clients and customers know everything they want to know about you before they ever do business with you.
What's more, thanks to the Internet, today's customers can buy Anything from Anyone, Anytime, Anywhere, and at almost Any Price.
What's more, they have unlimited ways of communicating their pleasure — or displeasure — with your business – and your service.
Thanks to this, customer service success today – AND TOMORROW – requires that you turn the lens around 180° and focus relentlessly on your customer.
To take advantage of this new reality requires you to understand three things:
- What your future success looks like.
- Why you must stop selling function.
- Why it's All About Them.
Despite these three simple directives, not everyone understands the new realities of doing business today. Case in point:
Because I travel around the world speaking at conferences and helping people with their company's strategy, I have amassed enough frequent flier miles to go to the moon and back. And up until very recently, that numerical proof that I was a valuable customer meant that my airline of choice went out of its way to let me know I was appreciated.
But recently, someone in their Customer Service division must have decided it was no longer in their best interest to show their best clients how much they cared. And so, they redefined their “loyalty program” from meaning that the airline was loyal to their customers to meaning their customers should be loyal to the airline.
The advantages of frequent flier status were slashed nearly as much as the size of the seats. All of a sudden, it seemed like everyone was relegated to steerage, even if they were sitting up front.
Wait times for reservation clerks were increased, legroom was decreased, and decent meals and snacks were eliminated.
Of course, all of these changes are short-sighted. Because just when the airlines are figuring you have no choice but to fly with them, technology is giving us lots of different ways of coping, from lower cost, independent “air taxi” carriers, to additional economy carriers, to Zoom and Microsoft Teams often eliminating our need to travel for business altogether.
Once airline travel becomes as genericized as the retail business has become, and you can go anywhere, anytime, with anyone, at almost any price, what reason will customers have to stick with their legacy carrier? And why would you care about an airline that stopped caring about you?
Sure, regulations, geographic monopolies, and other artificial controls will lengthen the current carriers' domination, but those advantages won't last forever. For historical proof, just look at what's happened to department stores, the appliance business, fast-food restaurants, universities, and hotels. All of them have faced massive disruption because they forgot that their customers come first and that those same customers have more and more choices about where they want to do business.
And who they want to do it with.