I just finished reading The Business Romantic by Tim Leberecht. In the inside cover of the book, it explains that “business [often] seems divorced from the full expression of our humanity. For many of us, something is missing, something both essential and immeasurable that lets us see the world with fresh eyes every day: romance … The Business Romantic urges you to … expect more, give more of yourself, [and] fall back in love with business and with your life.” Leberecht later encourages readers “to have a romantic view of business: to act differently, but, first and foremost, to see, feel, and be different.” This ethos is captured perfectly by Novalis, a poet, author, and philosopher of early German Romanticism, when he said “to romanticize the world is to make us aware of its magic, mystery, and wonder; it is to educate the senses to see the ordinary as extraordinary, the familiar as strange, the mundane as sacred, the finite as infinite.”
I really like the idea of falling back in love with business and having it connect with creating greater meaning in our lives and in the lives of others. As with many endeavors in life, whether a new relationship or marriage, a new job, or a new project, it’s easy to lose the flame of passion we had in the beginning as the daily grind takes over. Instead, we need to continually work to reconnect with that original love affair.
This is especially true in the world of customer service. Given the unrelenting demands of budget constraints, personnel changes, operational fires, and technology upgrades, customer service is typically referred to using many terms other than “romantic”. We’ve also reached a stage of industry maturity where it’s easy to see customer service as ordinary, familiar, mundane, and finite rather than extraordinary, strange, sacred, and infinite. That doesn’t need to be the case. We can become Customer Service Romantics and fall back in love with customer service (and help our customers do the same).
Within Nuance Enterprise, our mission is to transform customer service into something consumers love by delivering intelligent self-service solutions powered by artificial intelligence. Said a different way, we’re Customer Service Romantics. We know that intelligent self-service solutions consistently deliver reduced operational costs, a brand-differentiated customer experience, greater customer insight, and increased conversion rates. That’s why thousands of large enterprises and government agencies around the world have deployed these solutions. But we also know that intelligent self-service solutions transcend these business-case-oriented metrics and allow our customers to more fully express their humanity, to expect more, to give more, and to fall back in love with customer service.
That’s a big (and perhaps bold) statement so let’s explore, just for a moment, the essential and immeasurable ways in which we can view customer service (and specifically self-service) with fresh eyes.
- A more human conversation with technology. We’ve long believed that we need to reinvent the relationship between people and technology such that technology is smart enough to adapt to the needs of people instead of the other way around. By leveraging artificial intelligence to make intelligent self-service more and more intelligent over time, we can deliver increasingly human conversations with technology that put consumers in control and allow them to get their needs addressed on their own terms. These personalized experiences create an emotional connection and feeling of empowerment that’s too often missing with customer service today.
- Giving consumers more jelly beans. These intelligent self-service experiences also make customer service easy and effortless for the consumer – creating more time for other things in their lives. To drive home the importance of saving consumers time, Andrei Calin from ING shared the time you have (in jelly beans) at our CES London 2014 event last year. By giving consumers more jelly beans for the things most important in their lives, consumers know that the companies they do business with value their time and are deserving of their ongoing loyalty.
- Paying it forward. In 2000, Kevin Spacey and Helen Hunt starred in the movie Pay It Forward which explored the impact we can have – often in the lives of those completely unknown to us – through simple acts of kindness and compassion. This idea was more recently captured in this Liberty Mutual commercial. When we have a bad customer service experience, do we take out that frustration on those around us? Conversely, when we have a great service experience, does it help us show the same respect to others and carry that positive feeling throughout our day? When we treat others (even one person) better as a result of that experience, how might it ripple forward through many peoples’ lives? What can happen as we then multiply that by billions of customer service interactions every year? Call me a romantic but I believe the potential for good is astounding if we stop for a moment to ponder it.
I know not everyone shares this view of what customer service can become (and what it has already become for a number of leading organizations around the world). I also know, however, that Nuance Enterprise will usher in the day when nearly all customer service is automated and consumers will prefer it. Using intelligent self-service solutions powered by artificial intelligence, the economics of customer service can work for the enterprise and the experience of customer service can work for the consumer. In fact, both the enterprise and the consumer can once again fall in love with customer service.
This Saturday, customer service, will you be my valentine?