Book of the Month: High-Tech, High-Touch Customer Service by Micah Solomon


With glowing endorsements from the likes of Seth Godin and Steve Wozniak, we knew we had to include Micah Solomon’s latest book, High-Tech, High-Touch, Customer Service: Inspire Timeless Loyalty in The Demanding New World of Social Commerce (AMACOM Books, May 2012), in our monthly series of essential reads for customer service and business professionals who are seeking help navigating the age of six-second attention spans.

In High-Tech, High-Touch Customer Service, Solomon draws from his deep expertise across business, technology, commerce, customer service and social media to relay practical advice on topics including building a great culture of service, delivering customer service through social media and addressing those inevitable negative online reviews. Those not familiar with Solomon’s work may first notice his casual, engaging and personal approach he takes to writing, making for a quick and digestible read. Here’s an excerpt from the book’s …

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Mobile App Allows Customers to Bypass Recorded Menus

“Zappix Inc. of Burlington is slashing through the audio clutter, with a smartphone app that can automatically choose the correct option. The Zappix app, available at no charge for Apple Inc.’s iPhone or smartphones running Google Inc.’s Android operating system, is pre-programmed with the correct dialing codes for hundreds of major businesses and government agencies. For example, a user who subscribes to cable TV provider Comcast Corp. can touch the company name, to see a menu of customer service options. They’re exactly the same options you’d hear when dialing the company, but Zappix lets you race through them by touching the screen.” [Source:]

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As Dollar General Marches Into Ecommerce, Keep an Eye on Customer Service


If you’re a subscriber of this blog then you know by now – we are firm believers that price and product selection are converging for many online categories, and as a result the best way for an online business to differentiate is to provide an outstanding customer experience.

With the recent news that Dollar General is launching an ecommerce site, we’re obviously curious about the kind of customer service policies and practices we should expect from the discount retailer’s new online store. After all, it’s hard to find a better example of price convergence than the “dollar-store” category.

For starters, let’s look at one of Dollar General’s main competitors, Dollar Tree. While Dollar Tree offers 24/7 call support and free shipping for orders sent to a local Dollar Tree store, it doesn’t allow for returns (all sales are final).

Adding to our intrigue about Dollar General’s future online service is that it plans to …

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Sick of Being Told to Go Climb a (Phone) Tree?

Avg Hold Time

Ever been told to “Go Climb a Tree“?  Well, we have and it’s quite rude.  Unless you’re remarkably dense (or you’re a squirrel), being told to go climb a tree is something no online shopper should experience.  With that in mind, why are so many retailers eschewing good customer service and essentially telling us to do just that? 

Using data for the power of good, we’ve come up with some interesting customer service facts about the use of phone-trees and how it impacts retailer call hold times.  Only 21 of the Internet’s top 100 retailers connect shoppers directly to a live agent. That list expands to 22 if we also include 1-800 CONTACTS, which falls just outside the top 100 at #101 (We’re especially impressed that a business that bears its customer service phone number as its name, which leads to even higher call volume, steers clear of an IVR to ensure the best possible experience for shoppers).

Unfortunately for shoppers, …

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Is IBM’s Watson the future of customer service?

Say hello to Watson, IBM’s latest supercomputer and biggest side project of the last decade. Watson is (by far and away) the world’s most sophisticated and intelligent “question-answering machine.” It has the ability to rapidly answer complex questions that are asked in “natural human elocution”, or in other words, everyday speech.

Normally, question-answering computers such as search engines or interactive voice response (IVR) systems,  are limited to keywords and specifically constructed sentences. Have you ever dealt with an IVR on the phone? As John mentioned in his post earlier this month, IVR systems can render worthless if your responses aren’t clearly communicated.

With millions of dollars of computing power and countless algorithms behind it, Watson is able to decipher and understand a question, search its massive database for the relevant information, compile a list of the most probable answers, and produce a sensible …

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I say tomato, you say tomato

We all know that it’s difficult to write clearly. Take this sign as an example:

Yes, I’ll admit that this picture was taken in a foreign country and most likely written by someone who had a few too many cocktails during their Rosetta Stone session. Nonetheless, I am sure you can relate to being in a writer’s funk.

What about speaking clearly? Do you think you’re better at conveying your message when speaking aloud? I’m not sure either. But what I do know is that you should not let an interactive voice response (IVR) system help you decide. What’s an IVR, you say? An IVR is a phone based system that allows customers to complete an agent-less transaction through self-service. You know, it’s the robot on the other end of the phone that “better directs” your call whenever you ring a customer support hotline. I personally find IVR systems annoying and on top of that, they have me convinced I have marbles in my mouth. Here’s …

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Accuracy of Estimated Call Hold Times

To know or not to know?

The above comic reminded me of a call support phenomena that I have experienced on quite a few occasions. I’ve witnessed on several occasions a call wait time that turned out not to be the case. “We are experiencing a higher than normal call volume. Please stay on the line…” cooed the automatic recording. On most occasions, this is true. Other times, the expected hold time is much longer, and I sigh in relief when I am immediately transferred to a human.

So how are hold times estimated? IVR, or interactive voice response, is used to estimate the hold time of calls based on the wait times of previous calls and forecasts of future calls. IVR designers collect data across days and weeks to determine the average hold times, which vary based on the time of day, day of the week, and proximity to holidays. Using this information, customer service managers can staff customer support representatives so that more are available at busier parts of the day. Further, they …

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