Improving Customer Service

Issue # 63 of 70 

John T. Self, Ph.D.
By: Dr. John T. Self

The Future Is Now

I was privileged to attend a recent discussion of Kevin Kelly's new book, New Rules for the New Economy at the corporate office of Global Business Network. Peter Schwartz, the head of GBN and author of The Art of the Long View, hosted the meeting.

Mr. Kelly and Mr. Schwartz are futurists. (Personally, I don't know of a more interesting subject than the future.) I was especially interested to hear their thoughts on the future of customer service over the next two decades.

The discussion that followed was fascinating. Mr. Kelly stated that there were three driving forces at work today. First, that we are living in era of globalization. I think we all realize this, but he put it in perspective when he said that the world only goes through globalization once. Considering that it took billions of years for life to be present at all, then billions more for it to grow to 2 cells and so on, the idea that globalization is occurring during our lifetime is momentous.

Second, that there is movement from the tangible to the intangible. The service industry has been aware of this for years, since our industry has been continuously growing for years. A car, for example, only has about 18 per cent of the total cost tied up in raw materials.

Third, that we are in the middle of a communications revolution. Again, we are all probably aware of this to some extent, but the significance of this is truly startling. Communications is really the heart and soul of our society, and possibly our humanness. When communications begin to be tampered with, it can have significant repercussions.

"So what", you say? How does all that pertain to customer service?

In New Rules for the New Economy, Mr. Kelly mentions that we should focus on the free. Give the product away and focus on the collateral services and building relationships. Anything that can be duplicated is eventually worthless, but relationships are lasting and cannot be duplicated. This has started to be in evidence with the advent of Free-PC. A company giving away personal computers for the obligation of surveys and advertising reviews.

Mr. Kelly believes that the lines between customers and employees will continue to blur. Both groups must be involved in the success of companies if there is any hope for a future of longevity. Getting both groups involved will strengthen the relationship process.

How can you do this? Simple; Treat your favored customers with some of the decision making. Discuss with your employees the concerns that are keeping management up at night. Why keep things from your employees? They want to help. In fact, that is the lifeblood to the new employee and the new company of the future (which is now if you haven't looked).

John T. Self is a lecturer at The Collins School of Hospitality Management at California State Polytechnic University (Cal Poly Pomona). Prior to entering academia, Dr. Self spent fifteen years in the restaurant industry. While in the corporate world, he worked for several chains including Chili's and Steak and Ale, and as vice president of a regional restaurant chain overseeing six restaurants with sales of over twenty million dollars. He has also owned three independent restaurants, including a comedy club.
Dr. Self has also been involved in the development of international hospitality programs. While at Golden Gate University, he started the partnership with Dalian University of Technology in Dalian, China and is continuing in that involvement at Cal Poly.

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Text © Dr. John T. Self, 1997,1998. Part of the original Sideroad.