Posts tagged ‘bad customer service’
April 24, 2015
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.
July 8, 2012
The dreaded VRU. How did it come to be such a brick wall? It’s a great tool for efficiency, of course- just not for us. No doubt it saves millions in staffing costs for companies, while creating a tedious, frustrating, and mind-numbing experience for those of us who spend infinitely more time navigating through the gauntlet of menus, only to find that none of them offer the right options- none offer a human. I’ll start to feel my blood pressure rising, the frustration growing, finally talking louder and louder to the VRU, as if I were talking to someone hard of hearing, saying, “I WANT A HUMAN!”, then getting the inevitably even-toned “I’m sorry, that is not a valid response. To return to the main menu, please press 1, now”.
It wouldn’t be so bad if there were always the option to speak to an agent, but many companies remove that option. Others offer it, but only after you’ve followed a path of automated responses that exhaust all possible functions the system has in its arsenal. The thing is, I don’t actually want to speak to a human. I’d much rather be able to solve everything through email or online. But sometimes, you can’t- and you really need to speak with someone, and it just shouldn’t have to be so hard.
Used the way they were intended, VRU’s have a place, providing answers to frequently asked questions, saving time and money- theoretically leaving more time for qualified agents to deal with more complicated issues. I get it. They can be a tolerable evil, to a degree, as long as there’s always the option to speak to someone. It’s just plain irresponsible to omit an option to do so.
In the early days of web shopping, you practically had to have connections to get a phone number at Amazon. There was one- but you could not find it on the site. It simply wasn’t there. When my friend AMB got the number- it was a big score- and we all saved it in our address books for future reference. It was like having privileged information. They’ve come a long way since those days.
Even now, there are a surprising number of high-profile companies that don’t provide phone service at all. Companies that just can’t handle the volume, or plain don’t want to. Some surprisingly big companies in the mix. See “Tech Companies Leave Phone Calls Behind” in yesterday’s New York Times- Quora doesn’t provide a phone number at all. Twitter has one, but it hangs up after directing you to email. Facebook is no better. In the article, Amy O’Leary describes the Linked In VRU cycle as a telephonic version of “Groundhog Day”. That pretty much sums it up.
And then…there are the times that speaking to an agent seems almost as existential as working your way through a VPU. Check out “The Theater of the Absurd” today in the NYT business section, for a humorous article on the subject, including a transcript of a baffling conversation between Alan Alda and a McAfee customer service agent, in which he says to her, “I am now in the land of Kafka” after going around in ridiculous circles. Worth a read.
I wonder if Siri could help. Try asking her to get you an agent at <company name here>, and see what happens. Let me know how that works out. I’m a generation behind, on the iPhone 4, so wouldn’t know. It would be worth the upgrade if she has that kind of power.