- “If you would like to speak English with someone in India, sporting a Midwest accent, press 2.”
- “If you would like to speak to someone in the Philippines with a Bronx flavor, press 3.”
- “If you would like to speak to a computer generated customer service voice, press 4.”
- “If you are growing weary of making all these selections and waiting to speak to a ‘live’ customer service agent, hang up now and try one of our competitors.”
Have you ever wondered how many hundreds of thousands of hours are lost each year by customers pushing buttons on a keypad, trudging down through the layers and layers of choices, earnestly seeking that live person at the end of the line who can help them with their issue or request? With more and more companies heading in this direction I would bet it is actually into the millions of hours.
Along with those unrecoverable moments in time are the mounting debits of customer frustration with these companies. Your time is important, my time is important, and we are promised customer service, right?
How does it serve me to spend ‘an eternity’ making endless keypad selections in order to get through to a live customer service representative? They often can’t help me because I made a keypad selection error and he or she does not have the scripting, to work with my product model and needs to redirect my call to someone who can. I then I have yet one more opportunity to sit on hold, develop my gift of patience and if lucky… get re-routed back into the initial queue and start the keypad choice game all over again. Phew!
Did that run-on sentence exhaust you? Was it just a little frustrating? My point exactly! Many companies who choose drawn out processes of sorting customers, using uninformed customer service contractors and over-processed automated customer service programs are testing the limits of customer tolerance and they are failing big time!
Note! A recent study suggests that upwards of 60% of companies who outsource their customer service representatives will see significant numbers of frustrated customers switching to their competitors.
Whether outsourcing is having someone halfway around the world answer calls for you, or a cyber voice on a server in your back office, you are potentially jeopardizing the most important part of your business…your customer’s loyalty.
What is Customer Service? It is whatever the customer says it is and it is always built on two fundamental elements: Commitment and Competence. Every customer service action is based and judged on these two questions:
- ‘How much do they care to help me with my issue?’ (Commitment) and
- ‘Can they resolve my issue to my satisfaction?’ (Competence)’
‘Simple’ customer service concerns can often be dealt with through an automated process or someone reading a problem/solution flowchart script. Automation or scripting at a basic level can be seen as providing a good level of Competence. It is not difficult for a computer-generated voice to announce your outstanding credit card balance or for a customer service agent to walk you through re-setting your IP address. However, a lot of customer questions, complaints, and concerns require explanation and dialogue. It is also a key opportunity for you to ensure that your customer is being heard and understood. (If they are not feeling heard or understood, they just might…leave!)
The more you automate this type of interaction, the less confidence the customer has, that their specific and potentially unique concern will be addressed. There are warning bells that signal in a customer’s head the minute they hear an automated voice on the other end of the line:
- ‘Is this automated system going to be able to help me?’ and if not
- ‘Will I eventually get a live human being who can help me?’
I just want a ‘live’ person on the other end of the phone who has the skill to solve my issue or at least help send me in the right direction. This might be seen as being old fashioned, but some business practices should never go out of style.
That brings us to Commitment. If it is not too much to ask, can I have someone who actually might care about helping me?
Most contracted customer service agents in ‘far off places’ have minimal connection, knowledge or invested interest in the companies they are representing. This doesn’t go very far when a customer’s problem or issue hits an impasse and needs the company to go the extra mile to resolve it. A computer program that only has three options and your issue isn’t A, B or C, or a script that doesn’t cover ‘that kind of a problem’ are great ways to drop the customer satisfaction ball and send a steady stream of frustrated customers to their competitors.
What is customer service? It is all about a competent and committed service representative in relationship with the customer. Customers want two things: to be heard and to have their needs met. Until artificial intelligence is able to really excel in those areas, nothing beats a live, caring, and empathetic customer service agent with the ability to competently resolve an issue in a timely manner.
It comes down to one question: What do you value more? The ‘perceived’ efficiency of an automated system or a zero defections approach to customer loyalty, by having a live person who is competent and committed to doing whatever it takes to satisfy your customer? You choose.