Over the years I have read, written and otherwise published any number of stories and viewpoints tracking the evolution, success and failure of customer service strategies. From the early days of customer relationship management platforms to the present fixation on data integration and the 360-degree view, there has been no end to advances meant to garner the loyalty and expendable income of the all-important consumer.The automation continues unabated on the Internet and in other channels. I am pitched weekly with new solutions for interactive voice recognition (IVR), and more recently, for monitoring software that detects stress or picks up keywords that tip a customer rep or manager that a caller is unhappy or upset. To the extent that this works - and I am told it gets more accurate every day - monitoring dissatisfaction is really code for measuring expected failure. Though companies do measure successful resolution, it is usually against the cost of the service and often doesn't see the customers who give up and move on. With so much money on the table we approach the challenge with more automation that tries to read the customer's mind - and even think for them. That's awfully convenient when you think about it.

It's a simple question: How do businesses measure the tradeoff of costs and benefits between speedy resolution versus the lesser costs of amelioration (we're here, we care) and the temptations of marketing tie-ins? For all the CRM books that have been written, I have yet to find a simple expression of this ratio. Where service tickets are mounting up, the strategy seems to be more about containment than resolution.

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