I've previously put together my thoughts on cost to serve vs interaction models, but have been sent various examples recently where companies have obviously decided that low cost to serve means low quality of service. From examples of bad IVR, through to the refusal of some large companies to stick their customer services telephone number on their website.
This does not need to be the case. Just because you are using a lower cost-to-serve channel to service customers, doesn't mean that there has to be a dramatic reduction in the quality.
But delivering a good quality customer service experience does not necessarily mean providing a human voice all the time. Yes there there may still be the expectation among your customers that they will speak to an operative when they phone your billing number; but its how you deal with them when instead they get a voice-recognition system that matters. Also there is often more than one choice of communication channel for the required level of interaction you need at a lower cost-to-serve than a call centre.
Once company that has turned the entire customer service experience on its head is SwiftCover Insurance. The advertising material they've put out over the last few years has made a point of covering the fact that they don't have any Clucking Call Centres:
Clearly aimed at those no-nonsense people who don't like dealing with low quality call centres, they obviously have eliminated a higher cost-to-serve channel straight away. Its not suprising that they've managed to gain a share of a market given some of the incredibly bad practices apparently being used by some call centres such as using fake names and hanging up when things get difficult (This article in The Times is a real eye-openner if you have the time).
Actually, are you aware that there is a British Standard for Customer Service?