The Trouble with Tools

This post is a collaboration between Eric Sessoms at MyCustomerCloud & Nicole Radziwill.

Everyone knows what a tool is. We use tools all the time, every day. Hammers to drive nails… cars to drive to work… glasses to read a book. Tools help us do stuff. They make our jobs easier, our lives simpler, and our existence more orderly. But we have to remember that tools only exist to help us achieve our goals… we humans are the real brains behind the brawn of our tools! And we have to figure out what goals we’re trying to achieve – or else we could inadvertently use our tools and technologies to just stumble about without making any progress towards our goals!

In the words of the political scientist Langdon Winner [1], “What matters is not technology itself, but the social or economic system in which it is embedded.” It’s the context of what you’re trying to achieve that makes a tool work – or fail miserably!

In customer service, the choice of tools is particularly context dependent. Want to build trust with your customers? Consider the context in which your tools will be used. For example, there may be pros and cons of implementing an interactive voice response (IVR) system. People like efficiency, and your company will love the cost effectiveness of being able to route its contact center messages to the appropriate person. But I know I can react with vitriol if I’m forced to “Press 1” every time I want the sickly sweet fake customer service voice to move me to yet another menu. And I know I’m not alone. Furthermore, I want to be treated the same way whether I contact a company over the web, or via Facebook, or by phone.

Quality depends not only on the features, performance, reliability and aesthetics of your product or service, but also on your customer’s perception of you – and that includes their perception of your experience as a company, the reputation of your company and brand, the truth of your advertising, the prices you set, and their individual expectations of what you will provide. In addition, their expectations will depend on HOW they feel you should provide the product or service.

The tools you use to provide customer service will help shape your customer’s perceptions. Choose them wisely!

[1] Winner, L. (1986). The whale and the reactor: a search for limits in an age of high technology. Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 19-39. Retrieved from

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