Will Automated Knowledge and Social Networks Kill or Cure Customer Service?
More and more systems automatically capture knowledge, upon which intelligent decisions can be made. Whether its Amazon, Google or Tesco (links are examples), our habits and activities are being mined for insightful information. This information also extends to capturing information about solutions to problems. This ranges from simply helping customers fix problems themselves, to invoking and tracking additional services. All knowledge, tips and tricks are being captured.
For most products there is a critical mass, where the knowledge captured become large enough to able to serve a reasonably large proportion of the needs.
Even as product life-cycles continue to get shorter, knowledge capture is evolving at a faster pace.
Couple this with the leaps made in connecting people recently via Social Media networks (Twitter, Facebook, linkedIn etc), with enough people having access to enough information, the traditional customer service teams within vendor organizations could be set to experience a world where they’re simply not needed for a large proportion of service needs. Vendors having a monopoly on their product information may soon be over.
Some product vendors already accept this, and offer information freely, as well as provide platforms to encourage customers to create and share their own information.
Sometimes these platforms come at a price (essential the new service fee), sometimes they’re not and seen as an investment in eventually reducing service costs and general good marketing.
Models like OpenSource Software are similar, where the power of the many come together in a controlled manner to create real value. Interestingly enough, the services supporting open-source software were originally seen as a limitation to adoption (customers ask “where do I go if it breaks”), however in reality the community itself provides much of this, backed-up by vendors with some premium services.
This, I hope, is what may happen to many customer services. A base-level of help can be found using the extensive knowledge within the related community structure, with vendors providing an improved range of premium services that compliment (not just support) their products.
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