The oddities of customer service constantly give rise to new urban legends. Consumers’ nerves are tested on a daily basis in situations where calls to a company’s customer service number go unanswered or customer service contact information can’t be found on a company’s website no matter how hard one looks.
The recent volcanic ash crisis forced many organisations to instruct their employees to use video-conferencing instead of travelling to meetings. While there had been a lot of talk about sustainable development and reducing the number of business trips made, real change in corporate practices didn’t happen until extraordinary circumstances forced them upon companies.
What should happen in companies to drive them to make serious efforts to develop effective electronic customer service? In my opinion, this calls for companies to assign top priority to developing electronic customer service.
The EU digital agenda, with its emphasis on user focus and preventing exclusion, may provide perspectives to bring about progress in this regard. In developing the user focus of a service, it is important that companies innovate and create different kinds of customer service models rather than sticking to one basic solution aimed at all consumers. In other words, consumers must be given alternatives.
The year 2010 is the European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion. In line with this theme, the Finnish Federation of Settlements has launched the “Mun juttu” project (Finnish for “My thing”) to promote participation and a sense of belonging among young people. A number of technology companies are also participating in the project. With this corporate support, youth centres have been equipped with modern media workshops for graphic design, making music and creating websites. The sponsoring companies have understood that the information society is not only a privilege for active and already skilled citizens.
The model of supported decision-making offers another approach to the prevention of exclusion. This means that when citizens themselves do not have the capacity to make decisions or the opportunity to learn decision-making, decisions are made for them. This can apply equally to minor everyday matters as well as major life decisions.
Canada has adopted a statutory supported decision-making model. Citizens of adult age can sign an agreement with a supporting person to specify the matters in which the decision-making partner can provide assistance. The agreement also specifies the matters on which the citizen in question wants to decide without assistance. The need for assistance may relate to e.g. managing financial matters or issues related to health and housing. The citizen is entitled to assistance in those matters that he or she deems necessary.
Good stories are always nice to hear, but we could do without the urban legends stemming from poor customer service.