Chapter 1: Customer Care; a Historical Overview
1.1 The Beginnings of Customer Care
Imagine you are in the 1890s planning to buy a new coat. Why do you want to change your coat? Where do you plan to buy it from? How much will you spend on it?
You probably imagine a picture from the 1890s with colorful dresses, top-notch looking gentlemen, and exquisite ballrooms. You can imagine these because you are at the peak of customer development, which is hundreds of years old. This means you know well what service you want, from what provider, at what price and quality. Also, you won’t back away from your choices because you know that businesses must satisfy your requirements as their client. If you don’t like what the business is offering, you choose another one.
This defines customer behavior in 2016. However, being a consumer in the 1890s was a different story. The reason we want to look into the history of customer care is to understand its development and the reasons for current best practice and consumer behavior. Getting to know this history will help us to understand the present trends and be able to act accordingly to improve in the customer care field.
How was it in the past?
When compared to the present, the wealthy families had a tailor that worked for them for many years; the rest of the population borrowed worn-out clothes or bought cheap coats from a single shop in the area. This is hard to image nowadays, but this is how it was centuries ago.
Throughout the years, the development of the market influenced customer behavior. With a powerful voice, clients demanded changes in the management of various companies, and therefore the “management-buyer-employee” triangle evolved as a consequence of societal revolutions. Let’s look back at the very beginnings of commerce and pinpoint the existence of the “customer”, as such.
The act of trade is traced back as early as 3000 BC. Villagers would set out to nearby settlements to trade resources, but this trade was more an act of protection and forming alliances, a strategic exchange.
Trade changed when merchants emerged as a different class in society. Whether they were providers of pastries, textiles, perfumeries or vegetables, the sellers knew they had to sell in order to collect money.