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Great customer service: an oxymoron?

April 24, 2015

jessonline

Is your customer service an oxymoron? Is it geared towards helping your customers, or avoiding them? Here’s what great customer experience looks like to me:

1. Customer calls company “A” and wants to speak to a customer service agent.

2. Customer is able reach a human agent within 30-60 seconds (and without a gauntlet of CG voice options and having to punch in excessive numbers). 

3. Agent actually has the information the customer has punched in (account number, issue type, etc) and greets customer by name.

4. Agent resolves problem fairly and quickly, and life is good.

This seems like a very simple interaction. But recently, when I had one like this, I found myself overflowing with gratitude. I steel myself for these calls- expecting the worst, because I’ve been conditioned to expect the worst, through endless frustrating calls that went more like this:

 1. Customer calls company- get electronic message asking customer to select one of 5 choices. Customer doesn’t want any of these choices- customer wants to talk to a human.

2. Electronic voice says that she understands that I’d like to speak to an agent, but to help, she’ll need the following information entered.

3. Customer enters information, gets a new menu of options. None apply. Customer wants a human. Customer presses “0”. Machine says “this is not a valid response”. Customer says, “I WANT A HUMAN”. Machine says, “that is not a valid response. To repeat the menu, press 1.” Menu repeats. There’s no option for a human.

4. Customer implodes.

5. Customer starts over, process begins anew. Eventually reaches human. By this time, customer is hostile, frustrated and exhausted. Agent asks for all of the same account information customer has already entered.

6. Customer implodes.

You get the idea.

It shouldn’t have to be like this.

I really wonder how much actual revenue it costs companies in the long term- do companies actually quantify the time wasted dealing with hostile customers, and look at how that could be prevented? What’s the lost revenue by attrition when the customer decides not to deal with them anymore? If they really did the math, they would see that it’s much less expensive in the long run to provide good, or even great service. Think retention, appreciation, brand loyalty. That’s revenue. Many retailers get it. Especially online retailers. And granted, that process is simpler- and faster. But when it comes to customer support for longer term products like computers, or printers, health insurance or banks- not so much.

Why do CEO’s allow this kind of experience to persist?

Almost certainly because they don’t experience it for themselves. This is the advice I’d give- and it’s same advice I give top leaders and CEO’s for their websites: experience it for yourself. Frequently.

Give yourself a scenario (my product arrived damaged, never arrived, stopped working, or I’m calling to understand why my claim was denied, and so on). Call your own Customer Service number and see you how feel when you’re done. And then ask yourself, “Is our customer service an oxymoron?” Answer the question.

You’ll know what you need to do.

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