Context, Continuity and Convenience in Customer Care

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The three C’s of customer care: context, continuity, and convenience.  How are these terms related, what do they imply, and why should you care about them as a customer service professional?

Consider them a value chain.

Context is the foundation for communication and understanding in general. Without context, messages are isolated experiences that don’t have a meaning, or the meaning of which is hard to extrapolate. Context means knowing about the involved communication parties, their whereabouts, their issues, their history, and having an idea of their intent. In customer service, context means having access to all data necessary and relevant to the customer experience, whether that is:

  • Data collected during past customer interactions
  • Data extracted from sources not immediately connected to the customer relationship, such as social media
  • Data explicitly contributed by the customer to improve customer service, e.g communication preferences

The emerging idea of vendor relationship management, VRM, where customers take control, manage their data, their communication and other preferences, and have their own terms&conditions for doing business with vendors (and only those that comply), promises to give rise to customers more openly contributing data that can further improve the B2C and C2B conversation for sales, customer care, and support.

“Contextless” customer service communication results in messages with low informational value, which can ultimately lead to little loyalty from the customer. Companies that’s don’t apply context in their customer communication basically treat customers as numbers.

Continuity is a requirement for effortless communication. Since communication is rarely a singular event, but rather a chain of 2-way message events that take place over time, using context to provide continuity in the dialog is essential. Without continuity, communication slows down, as context needs to be repeated and confirmed. Applied to customer service, this can quickly result in frustration, as humans are used to a certain pace in everyday communication that makes heavy use of context and dialog history. If a customer repeatedly has to re-authenticate when calling a business or repeat their issue to an agent, they suffer from the opposite of what human communication is and should be about: efficiency and convenience. And whether a business wants it or not, the ease of everyday human communication is what their customer service is measured against, if mostly subconsciously.

Convenience is something that humans always have and always will strive for in whatever they do. Whether it’s about inventing tools to get help with mundane tasks, or computers to speed up business processes, convenience is a constant and everyday goal. Humans simply appreciate convenience. Human language, for example, knows the “principle of least effort”, also often called the “economy of language”: applying the minimum amount of effort necessary to achieve the maximum communication result. Consider how we’re using pronouns vs. constantly repeating the name or subject, or elliptic sentences or abbreviations in general.

In customer service, knowing about the customer’s specific circumstances (context) and applying that knowledge throughout the customer journey (continuity) will naturally result in ease of doing business (convenience) – which should be the ultimate goal of any business today.

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