Editor’s Letter: Customer Service Is More Important Than Ever for Brands

Solving challenges that will change their businesses forever

Illustration with computer arrows, a broken brick wall and people shopping
Sources: Getty Images

We’ve all been there, both in-store or online, where the retail experience is so poor that you either end your relationship with the brand instantly or hold your nose each time you pay a visit. In my case a certain big box retailer near my home in suburban New York almost feels like a hostile environment I have to negotiate on my own when I want to buy a hammer or wood screws in bulk. Ask for help? “Down on the left” is about as much customer service as I can expect. Its online experience is just as awful. I hate shopping there and really hope one day I won’t need to. And maybe that day is coming.

In the age of social media, where brand reputations either can be made or destroyed with a single tweet, excellence in customer service has never been a more powerful differentiator for the world’s leading brands.

So how can marketers create service experiences that allow customers to move seamlessly across touch points?

In our latest Digital Transformation Playbook in partnership with Accenture Interactive, we dive deep into how brands are stepping up to solve challenges that forever will alter their businesses. What is the role of AI and predictive learning? How will chatbots, dashboards, social listening and response, and self-service platforms define the future of customer service?

Sometimes this means taking a business down to its studs. In his insightful feature, Adweek contributor Dan Tynan looks at how retailers like Gap are replacing legacy organizational models wholesale to provide a more nuanced, frictionless and holistic relationship with their customers.

It’s not just about having the right tools; it’s about having the right kind of organization, operating model, talent and mindset, Tynan quotes Jason Heller, global lead for digital marketing operations at McKinsey & Co.

“Most companies are technology rich, but insight and execution poor,” Heller says. “They have the technology, they just aren’t using it properly.”

In an opinion piece, Glen Hartman, managing director of Accenture Interactive in North America with global responsibility for Accenture’s digital marketing, platforms and operations offerings, writes that brands must have genuine empathy for the people who buy their products and services in order to be valued assets on customer journeys.

“Empathy provides the context for a customer’s experience, which is where the brand can really connect. Many companies are working to gather the right data to personalize customers’ experiences, but few can take into account customers’ context at each moment,” writes Hartman, wryly adding, “businesses talk about ‘acquiring’ or ‘converting’ customers, but when did you last hear a friend say how pleased they were to be acquired or converted by a brand?”

Also in this issue is a great infographic that distills how the evolution of brands is increasingly born from intense internal battles and struggles, as well as an article by senior editor Lauren Johnson on how fintech upstarts are redefining how customers approach banking.

It’s a long way from fintech to my big box store, but I hope—for its sake—it’s paying attention.

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This story first appeared in the Feb. 26, 2018, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.

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