I have been in IT, or at an even lower level…Customer Service, since I first entered the work force. My part time positions were all Customer Service centric, and when I graduated from University and went into IT, that tend continued. The titles were varied depending on where I worked…Customer Service Engineer, Customer Service Representative, Customer Service Manager, etc. It has only been over the last 4-5 years where I have seen the loss of focus on Customer Service due to the increased focus on costs and finances. Indeed, the term Customer Service now is even missing from a lot of titles……we now favor IT Consultant or IT Technology Consultant. It is in this recent mindset that I think we are beginning to miss out and lose ourselves as to what it means to be Customer Centric and truly serve their needs.
The machines and pieces of equipment have become tremendously powerful compared to what we had 5-10 years ago….not to mention 20-25 years ago when I started my full time career in IT. We have continued to improve and introduce new technologies and methodologies in order to bring about what we hope would be considered better Customer Service….give our users what they want and need in order for them to do their jobs or functions. For the most part this has worked out well……where I see it failing is in the realm of communications. Every year we get word coming out on upcoming improvements and enhancements to our communication devices…..faster speeds, better quality, less costs. With these improvements comes the word….use the technology now, there is no need to travel, no need to meet with employees or users on a face to face basis. This is where I see the major breakdown happening.
The technology we have put in place today is fantastic…it DOES allow us to get in touch with people quicker, allows us to do more things remotely with counterparts, but it can NEVER replace the need for individuals to meet face to face. We have Telepresence, where you can almost see the individual pores on a person sitting across from you…..the look and feel is there as if you were at the same table. You are not though….you do not have the same presence, get the same feelings, body language, interactions as you do meeting a person face to face. How better to understand, feel, see what a person is saying and going through than a direct meeting.
I believe that this is intuitively recognized by senior management, as the meetings that take place are always face to face where travel is needed. The lower echelons get the word coming down that travel budgets are cut or reduced, travel freezes are in effect, use Technology rather than travel. Regardless of a Customer facing issue, or when managers meet their employees face to face…..we need to rethink our position on Technology and its affect on Customer Service and what it is doing to our ability to manage the relationships that need to be built in order for us to succeed.