I hadn’t thought much about how QR codes could be used for customer service until recently. I was at a conference and the ever erudite Richard Sedley (@richardsedley) almost in passing talked about imprinting a QR code onto an object, but I can’t quite remember what the object was. Although for some reason a pipe sticks in mind. Perhaps a pipe that has frozen during a cold snap and instead of ringing up your supplier about what to do, you could simply scan the QR code imprinted into the pipe which would have a set of instructions about what to do, and also an idea of how to escalate the issue if the problem continued.

QR codes could in theory be imprinted onto anything and enable a customer to self-serve at the moment at which they most need it – now. If the issue cannot be resolved the information returned would also show them what the next step was in escalating the issue and which was the best channel to use. It can also be used to provide additional information about an object.

The current focus on self-service often overlooks behaviour and the integration of the actual self service experience.

  • Behaviour: not everyone wants to self-serve. Many people grew up with the telephone and to get them to self serve requires changing their behaviour
  • The act of self serve requires me to interrupt what I am doing, it is not built into the problem I am having. I have to go somewhere else to find a possible answer, and even then it’s only a possibility. The act of resolution or self service is not somehow hard coded into the physical object itself that is the cause of the problem. I go to Google because it is easy, although once there I may have to spend some time finding the right answer. I go to a company’s web site to find the telephone number, because I simply prefer to speak to someone. At what point has the company ever helped me to understand what to do when I have a problem? Where I should go to find the answer? What channel I should use to do so?

By building the first line support into the object via the QR code, a company is not taking me away from the problem, it is helping me to potentially resolve the problem there and then. Yes I need a smartphone with a QR reader downloaded. And yes the company needs to ‘educate’ me to do this and the benefits of doing so. But with 22% of the UK population owning a smartphone, the trend points towards smartphones over the next few years becoming more mainstream. Now is the time to experiment with QR codes, before they do become more mainstream.

Furthermore, there is no reason you couldn’t extend the use of QR codes to gain customer feedback, surveys, well in theory once again, its application is unlimited.

Best Buys experimental mood poster

BestBuy is experimenting with trying to understand the mood of their employees. Posters, like the one above, have gone up at BestBuy headquarters. When one of the QR codes below is scanned it returns either a ‘good’ or a ‘bad’ and a running total of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ are displayed to the user. There is no reason this couldn’t be rolled out to customers as well.