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Why customer service is like jazz

Nominated for 14 Academy Awards this year, the movie “La La Land” tells the story of two aspiring dreamers in Hollywood, while powerfully capturing the essence of jazz. But just as jazz music is known for being hectic and dynamic, so too is customer service. So how can businesses make beautiful music out of all that noise? Chris Caile details how companies can apply jazz principles to create an experience that keeps customers humming.
Like jazz, customer service is dynamic and ever-changing. Businesses must learn to make music out of all the noise.

The film “La La Land” – which is nominated for 14 Oscars, including Best Picture at this year’s Academy Awards – tells the story of a budding romance between an aspiring jazz pianist, Sebastian, and an ambitious young actress, Mia. As the movie chronicles the successes and setbacks that each experience as they try to achieve their dreams (in a city of stars), there’s one scene early in their relationship where Sebastian takes Mia to a jazz club to show her the dynamism and excitement of jazz. Although he was simply trying to woo his date, it just so happens that while beautifully explaining how jazz works, Sebastian also revealed the secrets to creating a great customer service experience.

After describing each musician and their individual instruments Sebastian summarizes jazz in a simple statement:

One after the other, everyone gets their moment… And you put it all together —

each player, each sound — into one single story. That’s what it’s about…

Just like jazz, customer service is a live, fluid, and hectic world that’s ever-changing. Though jazz is known for having many moving parts, the musicians still come together to orchestrate cohesive and connected performances. Similarly, though customer expectations are constantly changing and no two consumers are the same, businesses are still expected to deliver a consistent, unified experience across all channels. But how can customer service channels today collaborate like a great jazz group to create a single, beautiful song? Let’s take a look at two ways executives can apply jazz learnings to their customer service.


Let each instrument (or channel) play their part

“La La Land” features two instruments – the piano and the trumpet. Both are critical parts of a great jazz band for different reasons. The trumpet is special because the unique sound adds just the right amount of energy or sadness to the tune and can sustain high notes and make them linger. The piano, on the other hand, is versatile and is responsible for keeping the beat and driving chord changes.

And just like those two instruments, each customer service channel offers its own value. A company website is great for helping customers learn about products or read about delivery dates. It’s not great for answering complex questions or engaging in a back and forth dialog. In contrast, a virtual assistant offers customers a two-way communication to address more complicated issues. And the ultimate engagement point is the IVR which allows customers to have full, direct and immediate engagement. Each channel offers a unique part of the solution and executives need to be sure each piece is fully optimized for its particular role.


Get all instruments (channels) working together

Improvisation is key in jazz, but if it doesn’t fit the general song structure, it won’t work. Each instrument must be their best – but play to the same tune. Customer service channels are similar. Having a wonderful experience with a virtual assistant is great until the customer calls an outdated IVR and is greeted with a touch tone menu. Using the jazz analogy, it’s as jarring as playing a slow, somber Miles Davis tune and then handing off to the trumpet who speeds it up with Louis Armstrong. Unpleasant and inconsistent for the listener. Same with customer service. Getting all the channels aligned and integrated creates a smooth experience that increases customer satisfaction.

To orchestrate a beautiful melody and create that cohesive experience, businesses should embrace an omni-channel strategy.An omni-channel approach means that each channel pulls from the same central database to ensure customer information is the same and that data moves between the channels with the customers wherever they go.It’s the virtual assistant handing off to the IVR without the customer having to re-explain to a live agent their password and account number. Omni-channel takes all the moving parts, and pieces them together seamlessly.

In “La La Land,” Mia discovers the dynamism and complexity of jazz. It just so happens that those same words can describe customer service. But by leveraging omni-channel technology, businesses can make music out of the noise. Thank you for the lesson, Sebastian.

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Chris Caile

About Chris Caile

Chris Caile joined Nuance in September 2015 as senior solutions marketing manager for Nuance Conversational IVR (Interactive Voice Response). Before joining Nuance, Caile worked in various marketing and sales support positions at Microsoft and Motorola and has over 20 years of experience in the high tech industry. Caile holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Illinois State University with minors in mathematics and economics.