The Lost Art of Account Management
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Today's guest post is from Dan Kane, a Project Analyst at Source One Management Services, LLC.
In today's information age, businesses are gaining unparalleled access to data from their suppliers. However, this new focus on a customer's ability to access account information on their own has had an unexpectedly negative effect on the quality of supplier account management, and the ability for customers to get assistance from their account management team. This issue is especially prevalent in the technology, and financial industries, where complex issues can require multiple points of contact, and significant end-user involvement before they can be resolved. In part, this can be attributed to increasingly complex products; however a large part of the blame rests with the organizations themselves, and a new-found reliance on automation, and customer self-service. While it is understandable that not every supplier representative is versed in every aspect of these specific solutions, it is imperative to the management of a customer relationship that businesses are provided a single point of contact with whom issues can be addressed.
Problem resolution can often take the form of education, by making sure that customers have the knowledge required to access information on their own, and understand the products and processes involved with their partners. This method has yet to be widely adopted, and account managers tend to refer questions to complicated service guides, or online portals, without the instructions on how to interpret these complex, customer-facing tools.
Some functional separation is fine, and many suppliers are attempting to provide account representatives who can completely manage services provided to national organizations, however it is important to note that a single "contact" should not be SINGLE PERSON on whom organizations are completely reliant on, Situations out of the individual's control, such as sickness, can arise and leave an organization with no recourse to solving their problem.
Few things are more frustrating to businesses than calling for support, spending 10 minutes on hold waiting to get connected, finally reaching an operator who refers them to a single person for help, and happens to be out of the office.
The necessity of accessible information should not be a reason to diminish the functionality of account managers. Even if the information that a customer wants is available to them, the purpose of management is to identify solutions to problems, and assist customers with the tools that they may or may not know are at their disposal. It is counter-productive to decrease the level of live, human support in exchange for automation, and the self-serve environment that many organizations are migrating to.
What ever happened to the delicate, human touch, and a little thing called customer service?