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Evolving from Customer Service to Customer Collaboration

May 9, 2012 - 2 Comments

Like many people, I’ve raised my expectations of the products I use and the companies with which I do business, both personally and professionally. As my choices of vendors have expanded, so have the criteria by which I measure them.

At one point, the smallest price tag won the battle. I didn’t always get the best result, but I saved some money. I can get a whole lot more store-brand ice cream for my dollar, but it’s never as good as Ben & Jerry’s New York Super Fudge Chunk. Never.

Product quality, convenience, brand reputation, price, previous experience, are all in the mix. Increasingly, customer service is taking a greater role. I want to work with companies that want to work with me.

Collaboration technology gives you more avenues to interact with and serve your customers. Make it easy to be your customers. The efforts are worth it. In a new white paper, titled “Turning Customer Service into Customer Collaboration,” ZK Research says “the time is now for companies to use collaboration tools to evolve customer service.”

The white paper provides practical examples and key insights into how four organizations implemented collaboration technologies and used them to transform the way they interact with their customers. There’s plenty of upside, as the U.K.’s National Health Service, global manufacturer Hilti, AAA of Western and Central New York, and a major transportation company can attest.

If you make it difficult for me to be your customer – more specifically, your happy customer — you’ll lose me. And don’t forget, it’s less expensive to keep a customer than find a new one.

Give me choices and pay attention what I do and say. If I have a question, answer it. If I have an account with you, keep track of what I order and when. If I call you, make sure the information from our call gets into my customer record. Same with e-mail. If I use your website, pay attention to what I do when I’m there. If I make a complaint, make sure you respond.

Case in Point

Several years ago I bought a new car. The dealership was great when they wanted my money, but turned into a nightmare once they had it, capped by a tech leaving a cigarette butt in my brand-new car during the final detailing. I wrote a letter to Ford, cc’ing the dealership management, and made it clear I’d never again visit that dealership. No response. Yet, every month, Ford would send a new offer pointing me to that dealership. A smarter move would have been to respond to my complaint and adjust my record to point me to another dealer. Connect the dots. Simple stuff. Oddly enough, my next car was a Toyota.

It’s simple: Just make it easy for me to work with you. Give me contact options, make your website informational and functional. Whether I call, show up in your store, send an e-mail, or chat online, make sure your contact center agents have access to the information and tools they need to answer my question, process my order, address my complaint.

As a dissatisfied customer in 2012, I have more ways to complain. I can send a letter or ask to talk to a manager on a call. I can fill out a customer-satisfaction survey on your website and hope someone (somewhere, someday) reads it.

Respond, solve my problem, and you stand a much better chance of retaining my loyalty. Ignore it and you’ll just lose my business. Worse yet, maybe I’ll share my frustration with the world with a Facebook comment, a Yelp review, or a product review on a consumer site. Or I can tweet. Just check out #customerservicefail or #badcustomerservice on Twitter. Customers are talking, smart companies are watching and responding.

Check out the white paper for examples and best practices of companies using collaboration technology to evolve customer service. Whether it’s making it easier for customers to connect or providing them with more options than their competitors do, they’re reaping the benefits.

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  1. Great example: problems are opportunities to turn a one – time customer into a lifetime fan.

  2. “If you make it difficult for me to be your customer…you’ll lose me.”

    A point many companies fail to fully understand. The customer experience is often the biggest added value a company can give to their products. People want to do business with a company that wants to do business with them. Treat your customers as more than just another “sale.”