Reinventing customer service

Gacheri Mburugu
6 min readOct 8, 2021



2021’s Customer Service Week is here; celebrated annually every first week of October. It is that time of the year that most companies excessively celebrate their employees and customers in ways that almost feel insincere. Most customer-facing companies will take this opportune week to flood your every inbox reminding you of their commitment to you, their customer; that they exist to serve you. They will send you “personalized” SMSs, e-mails [because they imagine that addressing you as “Dear Sheri” as opposed to “Dear Customer” is personalization, SMH!], post beautiful messages on their social media pages, decorate their offices and websites with themed balloons and ribbons, and some might even send you a virtual flower and a card. And that will be the end of you hearing from them until the next Customer Service Week. This week, I imagine, is exhausting especially for companies who wait for their customers to initiate contact. But then again, that is the textbook definition of customer service; supporting customers, resolving their complaints, and ensuring that their demands are met in a manner that reflects positively on the company. However, companies that are not afraid to innovate and take risks have re-invented the meaning of customer service. They have changed the meaning of support and meeting the customer’s needs.

They have dedicated resources to reinvent what customer service means. It is no longer about having ever-smiling good-looking personnel attending to customers. It is not about personnel that can speak fluent English or Kiswahili at the banking halls. It is not about social media reps who can follow that bland impersonal script that managers wrote to ensure that the reps do not say anything that might lead to the company being canceled. It is not about having a rep that speaks softly while doing absolutely nothing to resolve your issue. It is not about companies waiting for the customer to initiate a conversation, which is more often than not, a complaint. It is not about waiting for one week in the year to flood their inboxes with virtual flowers and cards. It is about creating and delivering an experience to their customers. It is about understanding the customer’s journey throughout the touchpoints from the customer’s perspective. And thus the phrase customer experience [CX]. However, this is a whole different concept in which customer service is part. How about we discuss the customer service part?

These bold disruptors have employed strategies that might seem obvious, or risky, or millennial-like, but they have enabled businesses to deliver exceptional customer service. They have set trends that other companies are playing catch-up to. First, being able to reach a customer using their preferred channel; a comfortable environment, which in turn reduces churn, creates meaningful customer interactions, and improves customer retention and loyalty among others. Whether a customer reaches out to you via social media, email, phone call, that chatbot, or the front office, a company should be able to listen to the customer before transferring them to a different channel. Has a customer reached out to you via Twitter or Facebook? Then why are you asking them to write you an email, explaining the same issue? Why all that hassle before attending to the issue raised? Oh, company policy and formality reasons to mask bureaucratic incompetence? [I’ve always wanted to use that term- ha ha]. Has the customer shared all the information, supporting documents included via Twitter? Then why are you asking them to email them to you? Why aren’t these channels integrated? Why are you being reckless with handling information contained in those documents; which sadly, is mostly personal?

Second, automation and self-service options of some services. This reduces the bulk of issues that a customer service rep has to deal with and consequently, improves the overall experience for both the rep and the customer. Imagine having to call a company every time your streaming or TV viewing is disconnected because you made a late payment? Why? Because that is the protocol. Is there a self-service option or automation process that enable customers to troubleshoot on their own? Why not employ it? Oh, there isn’t? Isn’t that a solution that gives you a competitive edge? Are you automating? Please consider technology that is compatible with your systems, and user-friendly with your customers. Why employ a chatbot that abruptly ends a conversation while the customer is describing his or her issue? Disruptors understand their chatbot capabilities, and that customer needs are specific, varied, and complex. Hence, they will ensure quick hand-offs between a chatbot and humans. Additionally, while trying to modernize and automate, they will ensure that human engagement and personalization are maintained.

Third, talent and language. Have you come across those witty comebacks and banter on social media by official company handles like this or this These are empowered, well trained reps that know when to grab an opportunity and humanize your brand. Now, have you met reps who engage with you in your language of choice? That is simply amazing. There is a connection that you build; which is what customers seek. No, I do not mean English or Kiswahili or whatever national language; I mean Sheng’, sensational phrases, and any other language that the customer chooses to speak. Employ all the customer service tricks in the book that you can, but if you cannot engage the customer in their language of choice, then you are truly not listening. Language conveys emotion, which is what these disruptors seek to decipher. Then there are those companies that follow a bland uninspired script. You engage them in Sheng’ and they respond to you in English [rolls eyes] because the script says so. They have those impersonal out-of-touch comments in conversations; you will be forgiven to think that you talking to a robot. For example, you will share a 280-character-long tweet, with specific details of how painful your experience at bank X was, and the social media rep will boldly follow with the cringe-worthy reply, “We apologize for that. We have engaged the relevant team.” That is a mediocre online crisis and reputation management done by lazy companies.

Forth, data-driven customer service, and high-skill technology that simplifies and saves time for both the company and the customer. Imagine this scenario, calling your bank and you spend the first 10 minutes giving your details so that they can confirm that you are the legal account holder. God forbid that your issue has to be escalated because you will again have to suffer the painful experience, for another 10 minutes, of narrating your details. Then you explain your issue, and sadly that rep is not equipped with the information to help resolve it. So you are then transferred to another rep, this time probably a manager who apologizes for your unfortunate experience. Then goes ahead and asks you for your 10-minute confirmatory details… pulls up your account, and requests for a description of your issue, which was impossibly lengthy. [At this point your phone service provider is in seventh heaven]. Disruptors have enabled voice recognition soft wares, AI engines to allocate you the relevant rep, and since they already have your data [including that from previous interactions], they have insights that will guide them in anticipating your issue, hence faster resolution.

Lastly, proactive and inclusive customer service. It is about going above and beyond to ensure that your customers have the best service. It is understanding the evolving customer expectations. It is resolving customer issues before they occur. It is designing service delivery from the consumer’s point of view. It is involving your customers in the design process and asking for their thoughts. They understand the problem that you are trying to solve better than you do. It is anticipating their needs and making necessary changes to ensure better service… and consequently better customer experience.

There is so much to write about customer service, but I will leave you to your “Happy Customer Service Week” emails and messages. I need to catch up with cryptocurrency news… or at least pretend to. I desperately want to understand how a currency so volatile is changing the global economy. I hope to, at the very least, understand how the value of a currency can be possibly influenced by a tweet. A tweet. Oh c’mon! And also, someone recently brought to my attention that my favorite meme is a cryptocurrency called Shiba Inu. Customer service matters can wait until I understand Shiba Inu, NFTs… and until I find another favorite meme.