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Is technology removing the personal touch from customer service? Although the Internet has become a wonderful vehicle for making purchases and obtaining information, there are inherent limitations to relying solely on a computer network. Customer and client questions may not be simple enough to fit into a generalized Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page, and writing the situation out in an e-mail might just end up complicating and confusing the issue.
In my personal experience calling customer service providers, it has been near impossible to get someone on the line. Not being able to have a conversation about an issue can prevent customers from properly explaining their question, which can lead to increased frustration. Even if they do reach an actual person, it is typically after sitting through about five minutes of computerized menu lists instructing callers to press this number or shout a word or two into the receiver, which often gets misinterpreted. Additionally, some customer service representatives may simply refer the caller to the company’s website, instead of assisting them with their question directly, further disheartening customers. In short, we have commoditized personal service into technology, thus losing sight of our customers’ needs.
Offering personalized customer service can prove to be a differentiating factor for some companies. It can lead to an increase in sales, profits, and customer loyalty, while simultaneously decreasing the number of complaints the business or organization receives.
Companies with Personalized Service
Some people believe that personalized customer service is only available at small companies. This can be for a number of factors, such as the company is trying to increase its client base by offering personal service, or because the ratio of employees to clients is smaller, and therefore, enables the company to devote employees to customers.
While a smaller client base may make personal contact easier, personalized customer service is not a luxury that only smaller organizations can provide. Some large companies, in a variety of industries, have demonstrated that multi-billion dollar businesses are perfectly capable of providing customer service with a personal touch. Among these larger companies are a grocery store, Trader Joe’s, and a financial services provider, TD Bank. Trader Joe’s has received praise for having some of the most satisfied customers in the U.S. largely because of the store’s courteous and knowledgeable staff, not to mention the store’s merchandise selection. TD Bank also offers friendly staff and quick access to a person when its service lines are called.
Companies and organizations that provide people-based service have found that their customers and clients are happier and return more often. Additionally, these patrons are more likely to spread the word about the company and its exceptional service, either in-person or via social media outlets, such as Twitter.
The Legal Profession
In the legal profession, using the Internet as a means to communicate is essential. Many firms, including our own, interact with clients by sending out newsletters and posting blogs. In addition to providing updates on the law, some firms may also offer resources, such as templates for employment documents. While this is very effective and helpful in a bind, we discourage clients from obtaining employee handbooks or other agreements directly from the Internet because, in our experience, clients need personalized legal services that are tailored to their individual needs.
Conducting legal research and preparing legal documents that have business and financial consequences is best done by an attorney. Having an attorney help navigate employer agreements and policies can greatly minimize risk. Further, with personal service, clients can speak directly with attorneys to discuss certain provisions they may want, situations they wish to avoid, and the risks involved in a particular endeavor. Tailored documents can make a big difference in an employer’s operations, and can only be done through direct communication and creative lawyering.
As a boutique firm, we visit with, and get to know, all of our clients professionally, and we understand their needs and business challenges. We prepare documents, agreements, training programs, and engage in counseling, all of which reflect the client’s unique organization and its individual and professional values.
Although attorneys may leverage the Internet to communicate via e-mail, conduct webinars, and keep clients updated on changes in the law, we never forget that the best way to engage people is by using an old-fashioned method – the human touch. We meet with clients, and speak directly with them to address any questions, identify legal risks, and customize documents they need – all so that their unique concerns are addressed in a personal fashion, in real time, by a real person.
This blog post was written by Elizabeth Driscoll, a law clerk at Jules Halpern Associates LLC.