Way back in 2003, India was engulfed by BPO (business process outsourcing) culture. It turned out to be a blessing for the entire Indian industry, and especially the young workforce, as the term “customer service” was comparatively new in this part of the world — at least the way it’s performed in the West.

The BPO boom of the previous decade
Organizations and people learned a lot about customer service because the BPO jobs were considered a craze at the time and everybody wanted to work for at least a year or two in a BPO before starting a full-time career of their choice. I’ve also worked with BPOs such as IBM, eBookers, British Telecom (HCL BPO), and Convergys etc. as customer service representative.

The salient features included hefty salaries, state of the art office spaces, international work environment, no specific dress code, improved communication skills, opportunity to learn foreign accents, opportunity to travel to the US and Europe, quick growth, excellent training, pick n’ drop services through cabs and meals, etc. What else could a jobless Indian youngster want at the time, when finding a decent job in the market was in itself a tortuous exercise?

The scale of operations
Bangalore, Gurgaon (near Delhi), Pune, Hyderabad, and Chennai became the BPO hubs. It was on such a large scale, that at least 10 BPO cabs could easily be spotted every minute passing through the Dhaula Kuan intersection that links national capital Delhi with Gurgaon. Convergys, a big BPO player operated a fleet of 1400 cabs alone.

Companies like IBM, Microsoft, British Telecom, Verizon, Aetna, Amazon, Orange, Vodafone, HP, Dell, Fidelity, GE, Honda, Convergys, eFunds, Honeywell, Intuit, eBookers and many other global players started outsourcing their customer service operations from India. This was truly a BPO boom in South Asia. Indian economy started to prosper and Indian youngsters for the first time experienced hefty paychecks and started wearing branded clothes. Everybody had an option to enter into BPO industry if something didn’t work out as per their career plans.

Customer service mindset
For the first time, Indian youngsters learned about international standards of customer service and how critical it was for the survival of any business. The BPO boom continued for more than a decade before the bubble burst.

By 2011, approximately 70% of the BPO business slipped out of the hands of India and went into the hands of countries like Philippines, China, Malaysia, Thailand, and Brazil etc. However, the biggest takeaway for India from this entire exercise was the customer service mindset that these companies inculcated into the average Indian mind. It included soft skills and commitment to offering the best experience to your customer. It also included how to keep them happy even if that meant going out of the way to serve a customer.

Customer service in digital age
Today, we are living in a digital age and a lot of things still depend on how good our customer service is. The marketplace is quite competitive these days and businesses need to offer excellent customer service not only to compete with their rivals but also to just survive as a business. In the digital age, customer service is also 360 degree. Businesses may use their social media pages, Twitter Handles, helpline numbers, and email addresses, through which a customer can contact them, register a complaint or simply express their anger.

It is important to quickly address their concerns so that the situation doesn’t get out of control leading to an unpleasant situation where any negative content posted by angry customers can go viral. Twitter can be used as an important customer service tool, where users can get access to customer service in real time. If a company offers robust customer service on Twitter, they will act immediately. There are many instances where companies have acted on Twitter complaints instantly and have prevented a situation, which could have damaged their reputation.

Facebook is also a good platform, where users can register their complaint or access the customer support in case the normal customer service helpline is not providing any solution.

The British Airways story
British Airways is known for providing prompt customer service on Twitter.

“British Airways may be slow on the phone but are very quick when it comes to Twitter,” according to the Telegraph, UK.

Here is an interesting story about British Airways, which offered excellent customer service on Twitter to an angry customer and diffused what could otherwise have been an ugly situation. They not only prevented a bad customer experience but also a possible dent in the reputation of the airlines.

Click here to read the complete story.

In digital space, you should be prompt at customer service and think out of the box solutions to handle angry customers. An angry customer may share his bad experience with your company with his online communities and there is no way you can control it. Using social media especially Twitter and Facebook to offer excellent customer service is an important step to retain and expand your customer base.