By Larry O'Connor, Founder, CEO , Other World Computing
I took a break the other evening from thinking about our business to watch a couple segments of a TV series I enjoyed as a kid, "The A-Team."
I remembered how I was torn between which soldier of fortune I wanted to be: Hannibal– the unflappable, composed boss or Faceman–the good-looking guy with the cool Corvette.
Watching the TV series from the '80s made me think that to be really successful today our organization really needs to be like Hannibal's four-person team– focused on results, not their department, function or title.
Today's best companies really are A-Teams.
They're people (creative, motivated, dedicated) and customer resources (for systems, devices and software).
Granted, our team's work is less dangerous and has a different type of stress; but the work is just as focused on results ... delivering the ultimate customer experience.
Customers aren't interested in the company being a social enterprise.
They want the organizations they deal with to meet their wants and needs instantly ... if not sooner. If possible, even before they realize they have a requirement.
That means every team member, whether they're in accounting, customer support, logistics, product development, tech support or RMA has to work together as a seamless customer-oriented group.
Doing things slowly simply isn't an option in today's always-on environment.
Unlike the mid-'80s when the A-Team was on TV, today's marketplace and customers are constantly changing; and the only way to determine tomorrow's needs is by talking with customers today.
By having team members talking with a wide range of customers; new ideas, new products, new solutions emerge.
Monitoring, supporting and assisting customers is one of the most difficult areas these teams have to address because they have to connect with customers in entirely new ways.
Sure, team members still have to handle the "tried and true" communications channels – written and voice.
In addition, customer connections have become more diverse and probably even more immediate.
Certainly, Facebook, Twitter, Printerest and all things social are important; but mobile response is becoming increasingly important.
The customer-focused A-Team is gaining tools Hannibal never even dreamt of -- location-aware services, big data, identity management, digital communities and, of course, the cloud.
But today, the team's goal isn't to master and manipulate any one of these things.
Everything needs to be put into service to deliver customer satisfaction.
Team Strengths – Companies today can no longer afford the luxury of silos of effort when it comes to the customer. There are plenty of tools available but the key is to have everyone in the organization willing to assist customers if they need information, support.
Being a customer-driven company can't just be a PR tagline because people can quickly see through the thin veil.
That's why it's important that the entire team understand how their function, their activity is a critical part of the complete customer experience.
Regardless of the department they're in, they need to understand and appreciate that they play an important role in helping the company keep pace with the customer, not the competition.
Today, customers are calling the shots when it comes to service– both in terms of how they engage with you and the type of contact/support they want.
The new tools customers have, the ones we must master and implement, include mobile co-browsing, chat, community knowledge base, user forums, device chat with support personnel, the ability to share screens with service agents and about any tool you can think of that will deliver the answer/solution quickly and effectively.
While the TV series had the A-Team do all the work and resolve the situation, this isn't entirely true in today's hands-on computer/device world.
People are increasingly more comfortable and more satisfied with brand communities and forums where they can pose questions and provide answers to one another.
The new mobile chat for service lets customers chat with a live service agent to resolve more complicated issues.
While today's company teams rely heavily on each other as well as advanced technology and services, there are always those instances when people need to be escalated to live help for immediate assistance.
Key, dedicated people are still (and hopefully will always be) the true difference in good customer experiences and great customer experiences.
And along the way, the team gains a lot of ideas and lots of insight into what customers may want and may need tomorrow.
Some of the ideas are productized and some are discarded. But it's surprising how smart customers really are when you listen and make them a part of the team.
In one of the shows Hannibal said, "The best defense is a good offense," and B.A. responded, "You've got it wrong. A good offense is the best defense."
Today, with customers transforming the relationship as rapidly as they are, I agree with B.A.
You don't need a huge team.
You need a closely knit group of dedicated people who understand and listen to customers and consistently deliver the quality experience today's consumers need, want, expect and deserve.
That goes beyond the business tools and rests on the shoulders of people who make up the A-Team.
When a company has that type of human resource, I agree with Hannibal, "I love it when a plan comes together!"
Today's customers won't wait for Plan B.