Three years ago, I was not concerned when the video rental store our family frequently visited went out of business. After all, businesses come and go and there were other video rental stores within a two mile radius of our home. Within the next year two more local video rental stores shut their doors, further limiting our video rental options. This caught my interest. With one local video rental store remaining, I assumed their business was booming, since their local competition had met their demise. I was both naïve and uninformed.

The last remaining local video store shut their doors a few months ago and it wasn’t until then that my wife told me about Netflix. I had heard the word “Netflix” but never bothered to fully understand the business model. It’s not that I live under a rock, but perhaps I’m just a little too busy speaking, writing and traveling.

The change from brick-and-mortar rental store to fast fulfillment postal rental and online-streamed video was inevitable. This was a paradigm shift. Dan Burrus’ 1993 visionary book, TechnoTrends predicted this outcome. Dan Burrus wrote that it was just a matter of time before broadband capabilities would enable elegant streamed video-on-demand. Big change!

Change can be liberating. It’s never too late for people like me to learn something new - and to not feel bad about being late to the party. What’s most important is that change eventually occurs. Service managers must keep their eyes looking forward and drive their passion towards change and innovation. Too many service managers mistakenly spin their head around, looking back over their shoulder to get a glimpse of the oncoming competition.

Looking backward will ensure that a service manager stays a few steps ahead of the competition. Looking forward can yield a quantum leap, provided a service manager reads new books, subscribes to industry journals, practices continual process refinement and applies new-found knowledge.

Vacillating customer preferences are the best reason for service managers to embrace change. Customer preferences are almost never static and with rising customer expectations results are faster, cheaper and with better service delivery. But most vital - follow your passion.

Twenty years ago I learned an important lesson about taking action even when all indications revealed that I was too late. In 1990, when I first had the idea to write a customer service book, I believed my offering would be too late to make any significant difference. Numerous colleagues and industry insiders warned me that customer service was a very small market and interest would be scarce if at all. In addition there were already a few terrific customer service books published implying that customer service professionals had all the material they needed. If you remember Tom Peter’s book, In Search Of Excellence and Ron Zemke’s Service America and Knock Your Socks Off books, they became customer service standards. Still, I could not deny the internal drive to share my ideas. I was looking forward, not backward.

In 1990, the word “call center” did not exist in business vocabulary. Inbound and outbound phone operations were called customer service departments, inside sales departments, boiler rooms, etc. Then computer telephony and telecommunication innovation resulted in the consolidation of numerous Inbound and outbound phone operations into call centers.

I could not have imagined the explosive growth in call centers, during the early 1990s, which placed customer service strategies in high demand and this serendipitously coincided with the publication of my first book, Customer Service Over the Phone.

This was a paradigm shift. It turned out that I was not late to the party - in fact, my book arrived just in time to serve a burgeoning industry.
Today’s ominous economic climate causes some to dwell on the old days. I urge service managers to follow their passion. Drive innovation and keep your eyes straight ahead and looking forward. Innovate, innovate, innovate.

Steve Coscia helps HVACR companies make more money through increased customer retention, improved upselling and reduced on-the-job stress. Go to www.coscia.com to learn about Steve’s innovative customer service strategies. He wrote the HVAC Customer Service handbook. Contact Steve at 610-853-9836 or steve@coscia.com.