Companies manage their Customers like 30 years ago


Photo by Igor Ovsyannykov

Companies manage their Customers like 30 years ago. As we go deeper in the Industries and Digital Transformation new consumer groups, new shared belief communities, new tech tools and new purchase cycles will emerge. It’s an on-going observation and improvement effort for companies and their Service.

Companies manage their Customers like 30 years ago. You think I’m joking?

I’m deeply interested in the Customer service. In the true meaning of it. It’s the vitrine to the company’s culture. It’s the sales excellence, attitude and competence either in B2B, Service, or pure intermediary network sales. It’s ambition to grow. Passionate endeavour. Finally, its the respect for the person that keeps you in business.

I could write an encyclopedia of Customer service out of my 30 years in serving leaders, organizations and accounts. But instead, I only want to make clear that legacy organizations don’t improve on Customer service and the new internet creators don’t own the competence. They haven’t been tested in the inferno of customer rejection and exchanges.

Customer service is an entirely new game

ESCP Europe’s Michael Haenlein is the author of a new study called “How to date your clients in the 21st century: Challenges in managing customer relationships in today’s world“.  In a nutshell, he says that CRM strategists, focusing on the customer and their data, still today approach the service game with the routines of the past.

Brand experts, Marketers, CRM specialists, Commercial & Sales directors (for the physical sales networks), online CX strategists, developers, and many other ‘clans’ …the Service game is an entirely new game! Not only you have to care for the Customer’s desires, needs, preferences; not only you have to exemplify innovative Customer care policies, but you must repeat it 100% online as well. Yes, the same excellent Customer interaction and servicing, off-and-online.

Is your service an immersive experience?

Brands are no longer static logos or advertising campaigns, but total, immersive experiences. From the AirBnB owner’s response, up to a street coffee house serving your brunch. Brands should be building relevance, excellence and respect to unlock growth.

Any company must evolve from selling, distributing or communicating and shift toward building totally unique service experiences: humanized service that leverages empathy and tech-enabled (tools) intelligence …in the form of services (from an email to a call, and to a F2F visit).

Do you care for some further explanation of this immersive service experiences?

  • Hyper-personalized: The loyalty scheme, the repeat-purchase bonus, the enrollment to an FB page – all should be designed to feel personalized to each individual.
  • Contextual: The brand shifts how it speaks, acts, and serves according to the context (see Netflix, iTunes, Mercedes, Nike). In another example, YouTube adapts depending on a user’s context (separate kids, music, and gaming environments).
  • Intelligent: Netflix learns from its users’ viewing habits not only to offer recommendations on what to binge-watch next but to actually create original content. AT&T “reads” the user broadband usage and adapts its promotions. The Macy’s monitors online visitors’ click behaviour and offers you what you need.
  • Continuous service: Maintain ongoing conversations with customers. Marriott helps Chinese tourists travelling outside of China feel at home wherever they go. Through a WeChat program, these tourists can engage with a local concierge who can assist in Chinese with anything from restaurant recommendations to in-room amenities requests.

Brands no longer just have an opportunity, but an obligation, to come to life in order to remain relevant and drive growth.

“In real life, the most practical advice for leaders is not to treat pawns like pawns, nor princes like princes, but all persons like persons.”

James MacGregor Burns, Leadership Scholar


We are still making old-time mistakes

All the above-mentioned examples are simply put stimuli for any business. Stimuli and real disruptions to the Customer service. Why? These all lead to a positive word-of-mouth, to repetitive selection/purchase and leads more visitors to the company’s online touchpoints.

Knowing this, we are still making mistakes in creating meaningful experiences to a new generation of connected, impatient and demanding customers. We get stuck in legacy thinking, playbooks and metrics rather than innovate and disrupt to fully capitalize on new digital opportunities.

Old-time still? Online sellers

Most retailers we get to talk with, they are still thinking that in the new (digital) era their Customer service-UX will be served by selecting a nice WordPress template – hear what Van Schneider, former designer of Spotify has to share:

Of course, there are online service best-cases: NikeWalmartASOSAlibaba, the NBAEmirates and many others.

Old-time still? Retail stores

From the first minute you “walk in” a physical or digital store, you can observe things like search not being optimized, new and old product offerings aren’t clear, products aren’t presented based on consumer/visitor types and preferences. The list can go long.

Employees are bored to death, or exemplify a passive attitude, both in luxury and convenient propositions. Online you get a plug-in activated “chat more” that is either with no back-office team or at least not associated with the product offering. And if you want to ask something more on the product, you should call, or send an e-mail that might take you out of your schedule. Isn’t there talented professionals that know what needs to be done? And wy the companies underperform on such Services?

Even those tiny-stores that promote their product on Facebook and Instagram often realize that they aren’t prepared to manage inquiries and audience questions. So why do they do it? Why do they think that only being present there does the job for them?

Old-time still? Banking

Banking and capital markets are optimistic for Growth, according to results from PwC’s 21st CEO survey, yet that economic optimism hasn’t translated into confidence in their own prospects.

Banking organisations delayed in digital transformation, aren’t positively transforming the customer experience. A banks customer is on-the-go, worries for privacy and needs solutions at hand, 24/7. Driving this type of change is proving exceptionally challenging, however. In fact, the speed of technological change is now on the list of worries that are most likely to keep Banking CEOs awake at night. There are no quick solutions to implementing such complex and far-reaching changes to an organization.

Harnessing automation, blockchain, and AI will enable Banking to further drive down costs, but also serve more customers well, optimise trading strategies, and target valuable new segments.

Old-time still? FMCG and social

Have you ever wondered why FMCG that you buy every day don’t own a permanent channel and relationship with you? Of course, you find them in intermediary networks, but why don’t they get closer, to serve better their innovation cycle and listen what you have to say? Feedback, learnings, new products, consumer advisory panels.

They activate on social, some might be collecting e-mails, but all drills down to be ready for push-promotions with all the digital channels they now know (from Viber and SMS up to an FB post and an Instagram “follow and win”.

Is this the service consumers expect? What about product questions, diet preferences, petition to change something? Nothing, the FMCG industries have simply incorporated social media in their operations.


As we go deeper in the Industries and Digital Transformation new consumer groups, new shared belief communities, new tech tools and new purchase cycles will emerge. It’s an on-going observation and improvement effort for companies and their Service; of course companies that wish to stay relevant and service/people-oriented.

If they don’t follow this simple logic, no matter what they do, they will be left behind and new offerings will take over their existing place. Agree or disagree, when was the last time you allocated days to hear your Customers and Buyers in person, for long? How do they get your service? What would they wish to be improved?

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