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Over my 18 years at Caxton, customer service has been at the heart of what we do. I often wonder if people actually know what we mean by that, as surely it is for every business. But as the world has evolved in the last decade especially, certain trends and fads that try to improve the customer experience have removed the service part. <br> <br> Customer service to me is the direct interaction between a customer or prospective customer and a member of the service team. Now that could be over the phone, email, in person, live chat or whatsapp, the means is irrelevant. The purpose of the interaction is to ensure overall satisfaction which to me is key in growing a business, there is nothing better than growing your business through referrals. <br> <br> As human beings we rely heavily on trust and as a consumer we often seek recommendations or reviews from people we know or don’t know before embarking on a new relationship with an organisation. Authentic referrals are free for a business, well they’re not, there is a cost to offering world class service, but there are no additional costs. I’ve seen a number of organisations offer referral cash incentives to grow their user base and there is nothing wrong with that, we’ve dabbled on a few occasions too. However, if I think of myself, I’ve never been bought by a business, I’m not attracted or swayed to use someone because they are offering me £20. It’s because they offer something I want or because I’ve been recommended through social media or someone I know. <br> <br> Personally, I rarely have to contact a company I use, in most cases things work as they should. However, when something goes wrong, I tend to find I have a frustrating experience regardless of the method of communication. I’m also tech savvy and can find my way around a website or a google search to find an answer to a query so when I get in touch with someone it’s usually because my situation is a bit more unique and it might be unique to the masses rather than just me, but it doesn’t feel as though there is an easy resolution. <br> <br> So my point of frustration comes when I try to use live chat and I get a robot that tries to put my query into a bucket and I go round and round because my query is specific and doesn’t fit into one of the generalised pots. It could also be on the phones, where you have to press 5 different numbers as they push you through a tunnel to find the right outcome to only ever have the wrong department at the end of it. <br> <br> Don’t get me wrong, technology plays a vital role in world class service if you apply it in the right ways. So rather than using it to prevent a client from getting through to a human at all costs, use it in a way that it complements the team and the experience. Allow customers to see quickly if there is a self-serve answer, and if not provide them with the ability to get in touch with someone. Use technology to pass security, offer bespoke help whilst they wait or have a team of highly trained experts who can help a customer quickly and concisely, owning the interaction and following it through to a successful resolution. Utilising great tools to equip the service representatives with everything they need to help is surely a far greater use of technology. Not asking 6 questions to then only be asked them again when you get through to someone. I'm yet to find an organisation's robot or interactive voice response system that shows me what I really want when I have an issue, a resolution handled with empathy. <br> <br> I appreciate automation has come from organisations trying to scale greatly whilst keeping an eye on costs, but there is a cost to bad service, perceived or not. But how much are you really saving. It comes down to the core values of a business and the customer will always be one of ours. <br> <br> I guess in summary what I’m saying is, recent innovation has focused on automating service systems by trying to remove humans completely, but the human element is actually indispensable.