Trucks at Work

How shifting customer service perspectives may impact trucking

Here are a few thoughts to consider regarding customer service in the trucking industry: Will customers pay more for better service? How do data privacy and security issues affect customer service? And, finally, will clients really tolerate more “automation” of customer service functions?

Though it’s not transportation-focused, a new report from Xerox called The State of Customer Service 2015 delves into some of those issues and provides some findings truckers might find interesting.

[As an aside, reading this survey got me thinking: What are the true "basics" of customer service anyhow? A video David Brownlee, president of The Brownlee Group, put together a couple of years ago lays out some of those fundamentals.]

For starters, Xerox surveyed some 6,000 consumers in France, Germany, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom plus the U.S. and found (no surprise here) that consumers placed “high importance” on obtaining a quality customer care experience across all business sectors, countries and age groups – with 54% willing to pay more money for better customer care from their preferred brands.

Here’s a twist, though: By 2025, 51% of consumers in the three sectors surveyed by Xerox (technology, media, and communications) expect to buy into a “single brand” to meet all their needs in each of those areas.

That “one brand ecosystem” is a trend being mirrored to a degree in the global freight market; indeed, it’s the philosophy behind the recent acquisition of Con-way Inc. by XPO Logistics.

However, many consumers in Xerox’s global poll said they remain both “unimpressed and wary” of customer service “personalization” based on data gleaned from their buying habits largely due to privacy concerns. Nearly a third (31%) indicated they don’t want any form of personalization and half of those aged over 50 claimed they were uncomfortable with the use of their personal data, Xerox noted.

[Trucking is dealing similar issues as it becomes a more digitized enterprise.]

Yet the company noted its survey also revealed a willingness on the part of all consumers to use more automation to respond to their inquiries with such tools like a “virtual assistant” which is software that mimics the actions of customer care agents.

While 56% expressed comfort with alternative methods of digital communication, 29% ruled out this option and 15% said that they had yet to form an opinion on this emerging technology.

Demographically, Xerox said that concept appeals to younger consumers the most, with 72% of Generation Z (birth dates 1995 to 2012) open to this new form of “artificial intelligence” or AI, compared to only 36% of those aged over 71.

[Think this doesn’t relate to trucking? Then you haven’t met the AI Shell deployed earlier this year to aid its lubricant customers.]

“We all know that customer satisfaction is a strong indicator of loyalty,” said Nancy Collins, group president of Xerox’s high-tech, communications and media group. “Whether it’s more expertise from customer care agents, shorter wait times or a seamless omni-channel experience, there is a clear opportunity for brands to better use technology to build trust and treat every consumer as an individual.”

Yet she stressed that delivering such “personalized service” while ensuring customer data is handled carefully remains an ongoing challenge.

Just some of things trucking must consider as 2015 draws closer to a close.

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