Do We Have A Problem Here, Folks? Customer Service in the Digital Age

February 8, 2016

There’s no lack of commentary on customer service in the digital age. Nearly all of it falls into one of two buckets:

  • The digital age is a boon for customers and service providers alike because of all the wonderful online tools…it’s the dawning of a new age of cuddling and coziness
  • The digital age has ushered in an era of shoddy support because those same online tools make it easy for service providers to [pick all that apply]: be lazy, hide, be aloof, lack empathy

I find the second bucket more interesting, but not necessarily more accurate. Others must too. It’s easy to find breathless blog posts declaring that there’s a Problem with the Digital Age! Many of these same posts work in the notion that “harnessing the power of social communication” will save the day and restore balance to the Force. Right.

Is there a really a problem with the digital age? Did its advent unravel the Golden Age of Great Support on Earth? I don’t think so. The principles of superior customer service are not bound to a period of time, like the Roaring ‘20s or that awkward minute last year when Miss Colombia was Miss Universe.

Here’s what’s always mattered in customer service.

Adopt the Right Attitude

If you believe that Customer Service is a necessary evil, you’re doomed to mediocrity. That’s really good news for those who take the opposite approach, namely that Customer Service should be used for offense rather than defense.

The benefits of this view? You will differentiate yourself, because many companies don’t care. Moreover, you’ll earn the coveted role of trusted advisor, thereby cementing the relationship and unlocking the lifetime value of the customer.


Worry about preventing customer support tickets as much as you worry about handling them once they arrive. If you want to proactively engage customers, publish your information, make it easy to access, and keep it fresh. Consider a knowledge-base, a forum, and a series of webcasts addressing popular topics.

Set the right expectations

You knew this was coming. No need to dwell on it. However, there’s a sub-category here worth noting. Setting expectations is more than telling the customer something in advance. There’s a place for finesse.

For example, if you want customers to follow your process — let’s say you want all interactions with your support team to start with the customer submitting a ticket online — tell them why it’s good for them. Otherwise it just feels like a rule that’s good for you and a nuisance for them.

Talk amongst yourselves

If you don’t have your act together inside, it will take all of 5 seconds to confuse your clients. Create healthy internal communication systems, then decide how, what and when you expose portions of those systems to your customers.

Speak up

Let customers know what’s happening. No news is bad news. Over-communicate, be transparent, be truthful.  

Note that the tools of the Digital Age can make living up to these principles of customer service easier than ever. You get to decide.