I don’t know if you’ve noticed it because it took me a while.  The phenomenon has been rather subtle at times.  The timeframe has been spread over many years too, thereby creating a bit of a sneak-up-on-you effect.  But it definitely is happening.

I’m talking about customer service.  Customer service is changing for the better!

Now don’t get me wrong—customer service still has miles to go, I agree.  Each one of us has had, and will continue to have, many difficult customer-service experiences.  This is a massive area with innumerable variables.

Nevertheless, as I have assessed my customer-service knowledge, along with my personal and professional experience over the last 10 to 15 years, I must happily conclude we are clearly headed in the right direction.  Some of the company types that come to mind include insurance companies, PC technical support lines, healthcare providers, the automotive industry, consumer goods and services, and restaurants.

When I hopped into my time machine and went back to the mid-1990s and prior, I painfully relived some customer-service situations.  For one thing, a single telephone call—if I could even get through to the right person—did not fix the issue.  Second, the representatives were downright rude to me.  Third, all aspects of the situation were extremely frustrating.  Fourth, unless I did everything exactly the way that company wanted me to do it, my issue remained untouched.  Fifth, representatives often did not provide accurate information.

Things are much better today, which is why I delightfully made the return trip to 2012.  For example, a couple weeks ago I had to call my insurance company to untangle a complicated billing matter.  The representative expressed kindness, patience, technical knowledge, and customer commitment.  Not only did she fully handle my problem, but on the spur of the moment she decided to make a conference call with me to a third party simply because that was the most effective and efficient way to fix the situation immediately.  I was incredibly happy with the outcome.

Last week I encountered an unusual printing software problem in my home office.  When I called the technical support line, I was delighted to have the representative remotely connect to my PC, interface with the printer software, diagnose the core issues, and perfectly resolve the situation, all at zero cost to me.  Again, I was thrilled with the outcome.

The icing on the cake of this positive trend is the growing flexibility of companies’ approaches to customer service.  I am finding I have a wide choice of options to resolve a problem: email, online chat room, telephone call, personal visit, or online forms and resources.  The customer gets to decide which venue works best.

Of course, these tremendous improvements in customer service aren’t just good for me; they are good for these companies too.  When a company makes it easy and even pleasurable to do business, I’m sticking with that company for a very long time!

Is customer service precisely where it needs to be today?  No.  We still have a long way to go.  But let’s not forget how far we’ve come.

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About James Meadows

Currently I serve as a training team manager for Johnson Controls at a customer-care center in Kansas City. Additionally, I am a business consultant, a freelance corporate writer, an Assembly of God ordained minister, a Civil Air Patrol chaplain, and a blogger. I believe we are living in the most fascinating times of human history. To maximize the opportunities these times present, I have a passionate interest in leadership development and organizational success, both of which I view as inextricably linked.

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