Retro-Disruption: When Technology Isn’t the Only Answer

What do you do when you need help with real-life application of the technology you purchased? Does its customer service include advice for best practices?



Let’s say you have a customer who’s using your high-tech, cloud-based DIY tool for their business, but they’re having a problem. It’s not a problem with your high-tech tool, however; it’s a problem that’s linked to a business-level decision, like which category to allocate specific expenses for the greatest tax benefit or what their process should be for terminating an employee.

Questions like these aren’t really customer service fodder since the answers are unique to each client’s situation. These questions need an expert, which you may have on your customer service team, but that person also needs to be an expert on the client’s company, goals, business, etc., in order to give meaningful advice. In today’s world, which thrives on online chats and self-service customer support, this just isn’t happening.

I see this as a challenge -- another opportunity to disrupt.

Yes, I said it: disrupt an industry by going back to the way we used to do things -- with real people providing real help that doesn’t become a painful experience for the customer. The only way this happens is if the customer service rep and the business have a real relationship.

I know. My idea probably sounds so civilized and so barbaric all at once, but the opportunity to disrupt in tech through meaningful service is huge. For example, in my industry (HR) everything is cloud-based. Heck, we even just launched a new version of our custom, cloud-based HR tool, SplashTrack. We believe strongly in tech.

The intent with tech in HR is that most processes are repetitive and scalable: you run payroll the same way twice a month, and you run it the same way for everyone on the team. Tech is ideal for activities like these.

But sometimes you need something more. That’s when problems arise, because companies buy a DIY business tool, like SplashTrack or accounting software or a cloud-based expense system, so they don’t need an expert on staff walking them through everything. But then something comes up that the tech alone can’t solve.

That’s where my retro-disruption really shines. It lets you go off script and do something that’s out of the ordinary for the client. Where I work, that might mean one of our HR consultants spends a day (or a week) with a new client unraveling a long-standing problem in the client’s payroll process that’s costing them big bucks, or helps a different client through a termination. To be truly disruptive, your client should know the name and contact info for the person who has the answer, and the person with the answer should know the customer’s name, business, goals, and maybe even the client’s employees who are affected.

Disruption in this form seems almost effortless to the client because it’s what they would do if a friend, family or neighbor asked for their help. But it makes a big difference. You’re there, in the flesh, for your customers when they need you. Sometimes you’re there before the client knows they need you because you’re that in touch with their business.

I know, not all companies can do this. If your company is a tech powerhouse, you’d probably be too big to get to know every customer on a personal basis. That’s understandable and maybe one of the advantages to being (or thinking like) a small business.

I’m not implying anyone should shun tech. The world is a much more efficient place now that we’re self-served. I, for one, don’t want to have to find a phone book, look up a phone number, pick up a phone and endure hold music just to find out what time I can book a table for Friday. But for those of us who’ve embraced it fully, the disruption we really need now is a little personal attention, custom guidance, and real answers -- not the kind of thing that can be put on a customer service’s list of FAQs. It’s the kind of thing that makes a real difference for their business -- and yours, too. While technology is ideal for efficiencies in a DIY world, it falls short of providing expert guidance for best practices application.

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