Bridging the digital divide

We have explored ideas on this blog related to new contact methods – many consumers are complaining about poor service using social media channels and brands are starting to answer those complaints without ever being called.

But what might happen to the less digitally literate? Will they still be supported in a world that is moving increasingly online?

At a macro level there are government initiatives such as the race online, headed by Martha Lane Fox, designed to help those with digital skills share them with others who have never experienced life online.

But the real issue I see in our business is whether a rush to provide customer services online, and to prefer those customers who can interact online, will create a kind of first and second-class service.

It is clear that some brands have already created this two-speed service, perhaps unwittingly, by promoting and investing heavily in social media support at the expense of any existing channels. It may just be that their experiments in social media have been more successful than imagined, but as customer interaction improves online the digital refuseniks have little to look forward to.

However there is a silver lining. While consumer brands are always experimenting with new channels for customer service and sometimes favouring one over the other, they would be foolish to entirely scrap methods their customers use.

Some people still write letters to the customer service department, and every brand that is serious about service will still answer those letters – even if they would prefer an email or call. So although I think the rush to explore social media service will continue, I don’t think anyone is going to stop answering the phones anytime soon.

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