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Customer service needs a renaissance

Customer service needs a revival like the ones experienced by content marketing and growth hacking

Customer service is dead

Is it really? No of course it isn’t, but eye-bait headers get people reading and in the right frame of reference. The header you just read has gotten you ready for the opinion piece whose goal is to get you, the reader, to agree that something needs to happen in this aspect of the startup world.

This post is an expansion of the idea introduced in my free ebook, The customer service guide for startups.

What’s the problem?

How can customer service be dead if there are tons of companies known for their amazing support? There are endless anecdotes about companies blowing peoples’ minds away. Zappos is basically known for their awesome service, Amazon has ordered things for people in their online chat support sessions that weren’t even listed, and businesses like Zendesk are publicly traded.

Yes, there’s a lot of companies getting things right. But there’s even more companies getting things wrong. Don’t be fooled by availability bias when you try to think of the current state of customer service. Don’t discount all of the times that you’ve been frustrated by sub-par service and ruined expectations.

For every Zappos there are hundreds of smaller shops that simply don’t have the capacity or know-how for handling lots of support requests.

America, fuck yeah!

If you’re reading this and you live in the USA then you may have your eyebrow firmly raised mid-forehead. That’s because you live in a place where great service is commonplace. America, or at least the America that we outsiders experience through the internet, seems to have a culture of providing fantastic service.

Not all of us are so lucky, I’m writing this from South Africa where reading the Comcast horror stories on Reddit feels like home, and where an ISP with North of $10MM annual revenue records the most amateur-sounding notices on their support line when their network experiences issues. Which is most of the time.

How do we tackle this?

How does content marketing and growth hacking relate to improving customer service? Well if you’re a fan of startups at all, you’d have been exposed to these 2 terms. They’ve really grown in popularity over the last couple of years and these days there is a deluge of “growth hackers” and “content marketers”.

That’s fine, even if it’s misleading for the people just riding the buzzword bandwagon. The fact that thousands of copywriters and digital marketers are adopting these titles means that they are exposed to these new trends. It means that there is a trickle down effect from the handful of domain experts leading these fronts.

Can we say the same thing for customer service? I can’t, and I consider my Google-fu to be at least somewhat decent. Where is the trickle down effect for this industry? Where is the customer service buzzword coining mint?

A look at neighbouring industries

Content marketing, growth hacking, customer success, inbound marketing. These terms are all embraced by marketers and are driven by resources and conversations on platforms like Inbound and GrowthHackers to name just two.

Community management is also massive and companies are pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars into building and maintaining communities. And rightfully so! Community management is no easy feat. Moderation and maintenance requires more skills than you’d expect if you aren’t directly involved in this field.

Community management, like growth hacking, has a huge amount of resource sharing and intra-industry education. It doesn’t matter that a lot of this is for personal gain, SEO, and establishing oneself as an industry expert. What matters is that the sharing is there.

This means that anyone that wants to get into growth hacking, community management, or content marketing has central places to go to in order to learn. They can learn from current best practices, not something obsolete written 10 years ago.

People have safe and relevant places to ask questions, to find answers to common questions asked of contemporary problems. That’s the important thing to take note of.

Long live customer service!

Customer service needs a forum like Inbound or GrowthHackers. It needs a place where someone new to the industry can quickly pick up on the minimum requirements needed to help their company deliver. A rising tide lifts all boats. With a platform or platforms like this, any person that only invests themselves emotionally from 9 to 5 can still keep in touch with the best practices.

This isn’t to say that those people are worse at their jobs than those that research and write about customer service all the time. On the contrary, not everyone is interested in after-hours work dedication, which is perfectly alright. But those same people should have easy access to resources to improve the work they do while they’re at work.

Customer service isn’t entirely in the dark ages. A lot of the most prominent people have thousands of followers on Twitter. Many (most) of them have published books about customer service. But I doubt the aforementioned 9-5ers will be using their personal money to buy those books.

I doubt those people will follow CS industry leaders on Twitter because a lot of them are unbearable self-promoters and don’t have the same knowledge sharing and conversation-engaging ethic that people in the community management and growth hacking communities do.

Hit me up

The opportunity is there. Whether you work at Zendesk, Help Scout, or Zappos, why not invest some time or money into driving this venture? Be first to market, get all the benefits and exposure, and raise that tide. Need help with coding? I’m up for it.

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