Alexander Graham Bell and Customer Support
Do you remember a time when you had to send a runner carrying a strongly-worded stone tablet if you had a bad customer experience? Yeah, me neither. And we have Alexander Graham Bell to thank for that.
Clearly, customer support was holding out for a hero; and then… Enter Alexander Graham Bell.
Customer support was considered synonymous with call centers for the longest time. And for good reason – being able to talk to a business without having to get in your carriage and travel for days made customer support an actual, viable concept.
If you didn’t feel like taking a road trip, the other way you could reach a business was through the postal service. Writing to a company and waiting for a response or having almanacs or coupons sent back to you took ages; and, by the time you received something in return, you’d likely have forgotten what the original problem was.
So when you take a look at how the phone evolved over time, it makes sense why it was the primary face of customer support for so long.
In the 80s and 90s, Nintendomania happened. (Like Beatlemania, but for video games.) As a consequence, you had thousands of kids getting stuck in a Mario level, or unable to solve a Zelda puzzle. This predated the age of the Internet and YouTube walkthroughs, so what they’d do is pester their parents/grandparents to call up the official Nintendo helpline where a Nintendo Game Play Counselor would talk them through the solution to that level. Sometimes, they’d be on the phone for hours coaching a kid until they finally defeated Mike Tyson in Punch Out!
From sending a runner carrying a stone tablet to encoding and transmitting messages in Morse, communication had already come quite a way before Alexander Graham Bell entered the scene. But the telephone was the biggest step yet towards making instantaneous telecommunication a reality. The wave of new technology that flooded the world in the late 20th century led to their constant improvement and increasing accessibility, removing physical distance as a deterrent. Then came the advent of the internet and mobile phones, and just about anything could be done from just about anywhere.
Ranging from switchboards to call centers and IVR, for better or worse, the phone dominated the customer support landscape for years. With the coming of the internet, however, the email also became popular as a means to settle grievances. Technology is an ever-changing landscape – when it was the phone, people expected businesses to answer their calls immediately; but with email, customers were okay with waiting a little longer for a response. With social media and instant messaging, expectations have shifted accordingly. Times change and people change with them. Customer support looks to technology to cater to the needs of people. You can then imagine why changing technology and changing people might throw a wrench into things.
Keeping up with the changes can be hard, but at that place where technology meets people, that is the oasis where customer support thrives. At the end of the day, support is for human beings and it’s only logical that they should be the focus of it. Finding the common ground that bridges advancements and actual improvement to the quality of life are how you can start making support human again.
What are some of the most interesting developments in technology you can think of that have pushed customer support forward? And what do you think about striking a balance between technology and being human? Be sure to let us know!