What the Music Industry Can Teach Companies about Customer Service

UC Unplugged

What the Music Industry Can Teach Companies about Customer Service

By Mike Sheridan, EVP, Worlwide Sales  |  February 04, 2013

The article originally appeared in the Jan./Feb. edition of INTERNET TELEPHONY.

When people decry what’s happened to the music industry, they generally focus on the artists: Will Justin Bieber, Katy Perry or One Direction stand the test of time like Bruce Springsteen, Paul McCartney or the Rolling Stones have?

As much fun as these debates can be, they miss the larger point. The entire music industry has endured dramatic and costly changes in recent years, driven in part by evolving consumer tastes and emerging technologies.

Its evolution offers a cautionary tale to companies struggling with how to meet rising customer expectations.

Forty years ago, the album was the preferred music delivery mode, and record executives were focused on artist development, distribution, sales and marketing and the like.

Although there were technological advances – the 8-track tape, cassettes – they didn’t dramatically alter consumer habits. Even compact discs, which helped to sow the seeds of the industry’s undoing, were perceived to be no more than a digital record. The resulting surge in CD sales in the mid 1980s lulled execs into a false sense of contentment.

Then came the MP3 player. Nothing turned the music industry on its head quite like digital file sharing and accompanying devices – namely, iTunes, the iPod, and later, the iPhone (News - Alert). Execs were so intent on trying to squash the Napsters of the world that they neglected to figure out how to harness the power of digital content.

In short, they were blinded by emerging technology and channels and lost sight of the underlying shift in consumer behavior until it was too late. And this failure to adapt has cost the industry more than a few titans and mainstays, with retailers like Tower Records and Borders replaced by Spotify (News - Alert), iTunes and YouTube – places where users can find any kind of music they want on any device they please.

So what can the customer service industry learn from the entertainment industry and its recent struggles? The main lesson: stay agile, adaptable and aware of evolving consumer needs. Customer contact has shifted from a one-way, single-channel interaction to a true multichannel conversation. Advances in technology, the rise of mobility, and the ever-expanding availability of information have led to a boom in non-traditional channels – in the past two years, chat usage has increased by 18 percent, text by 20 percent, and Twitter (News - Alert) by 19 percent.

Just as music consumers have gravitated toward portability, consumers at large have embraced mobility. This ever-present online connection means that the real-time resolution of issues – through the channels that customers choose – has taken on added importance.

Companies that wish to keep up with their customers must not only embrace the various channels of the present – voice, text, video, e-mail, social media and others – but software and hardware solutions that are agile enough to adapt to new features and applications.

If you need additional incentive, just remember the record companies: They were able to maintain the quality of their product, but it was the combination of emerging technologies and shifting consumer behavior that sealed their fate.


Mike Sheridan (News - Alert) is executive vice president of worldwide sales with Aspect (www.aspect.com).

Edited by Braden Becker
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