Mar 032014
business customer service is essential in the new economy

When it comes to customer service businesses, Alex Bard calls himself a ‘career entrepreneur’, having founded four startups in the field since the mid 1990s.

In 2011 he sold his most recent business,, to Salesforce and became the company’s Vice President for Service Cloud and the customer service offerings.

Bard tolds Decoding the New Economy last week how social media and Big Data are radically changing how organisations respond to the needs of their clients.

“I’ve been in the industry for twenty years and I’ve never been excited as I am now,” Bard says. “The real transformational things that’s happening now are these revolutions – the social revolution, the mobile revolution, the connected revolution.”

The philosophy of customer service

“What they’re really driving is this idea that customer service is no longer a department, it’s a philosophy.”

“It’s a philosophy that has to permeate throughout the organisation. Everybody in the company has a role in support. It’s not just about a call centre or a contact centre or even an engagement center which is what these things are called today.”

“I really don’t like the word ‘centre’ because I really fundamentally believe that everbody in that company has to interact with customers, has to engage and has to the information – no matter they are – about that customer to provide context.”

Abolishing the service visit

With the Internet of Things, Bard sees GE’s social media connected jet engine as illustrating the future of customer service where smart machines improve customer service.

“They’re going to capture more data in one year than in their entire 96 year history prior,” says Bard. “With that data they’ll be able to analyse and do things on behalf of that product or service that’ll reduce the number of issues.”

“Because the best service of all is one that doesn’t have to happen.”

In this respect, Bard is endorsing the views of his college Peter Coffee who told Decoding the New Economy last year that the internet of machines may well abolish the service visit.

“Connecting devices is an extraordinary thing,” says Coffee. “It takes things that we used to think we understood and turns them inside out.”

“If you are working with connected products you can identify behaviours across the entire population of those products long before they become gross enough to bother the customer.”

For Alex Bard, the customer service evolution has followed his own entrepreneurial career having evolved from being personal computer based in the 1990s to today’s industry that relies on cloud computing, big data and social media technologies.

As these technologies roll out across industry, businesses who adopt the customer service philosophy Bard describes are much more likely to adapt to the disruptions we’re seeing across the economy. Changing corporate cultures is one of the great tasks ahead for modern executives.

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