14 experts on the biggest customer service challenges faced by businesses today

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Providing great customer service is a challenge for many businesses today. Companies like Amazon and Zappos have raised in the bar in terms of what customers expect, and there are an increasing number of tools and technologies that businesses people can use to improve their support.

So, I asked 14 customer service and customer experience experts this question: What’s the biggest customer service challenges today’s companies are facing and how can they overcome it? Here’s what they said:

10. Mike Wittenstein: Customer experience expert, business speaker, and interim CXO

Let’s look at this question from the end and work back toward the beginning.
Assume that a problem has been overcome. That creates requirement for success #4: the ability to implement a desired change.

Going backwards one more step lands on #3: having a clear picture of the change you want.

Stepping back one more time gets to #2: finding the sweet spot between what customers truly want and what the business can deliver authentically well.

Finally, we arrive at #1. Its requirement for success are being able to listen to customers accurately and having the corporate will to do so. In my humble opinion, the biggest challenge is #1 – getting the organisation to truly listen to what customers want and act on it.

Many brands I’ve worked with (successfully) have a predisposition to use ROI (return on investment) which is biased toward doing things the way that’s best for the company – not necessarily best for the customer. As a result, many cool ideas don’t make it pass the first consideration cut because they don’t meet a back­of­the­napkin ROI threshold.

That’s too bad because I’ve seen data that shows many customers (especially those of commodity brands) truly want the businesses that serve them to do so differently. There’s lots of opportunity. The first challenge to overcome is to provide inside innovators with the latitude to listen to their customers’ needs –then to do something about it!

The techniques to overcome this first challenge are proven and pretty straightforward. Use internal incentives for coming up with ideas, carefully defining ideas, and getting them implemented (use multiple incentives if you want more work done). Set up an incubator or innovation center (older people would call it a skunkworks or tinkerer’s garage) that allows the company to try out new ideas without running them through the typical chain of command (and that super stubborn ROI process). Encourage top execs to set examples by publicly clearing the way (through organisational bureaucracy) to get several projects done–then leaving the path (you can call it a faster innovation adoption infrastructure if you prefer more words) in place for others to use afterwards.

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