Professionalism Matters Executive Interview
Is Your Company Making One of these 5
Tragic Customer Service Mistakes?
If you’re like me, you’ve had more than your share of
horrible customer service experiences leaving you scratching your head in
frustration at the fact that companies seem to make the most glaring customer
service mistakes (that could be so easily remedied)!!!! I’ve certainly wondered….
- Why does the
automated phone system ask me to punch in my account number a zillion times if
the representative’s first question will be “Account
- Why is it so hard
to find an actual customer service phone number for many companies these days?
- Why can’t you just
apologize up front if you made a mistake and act like you care while you’re at
- Why can’t you
listen to what I’m actually saying????
- Why can’t I get a
number to call you back if needed – YOU, the agent I’ve neem talking to for the
last 30 minutes, not the main 800 # where I’ll have to start all over!
- If you know you
have times when you can expect “higher
than normal call volume”, why can’t you staff up for those and not leave me
on hold for 15 minutes?
- Why does it seem
like I’m talking to someone who’s hired just to read a script instead of
someone who is really knowledgeable and equipped to solve my problem?
Having analyzed real customer feedback from the 2016
Professionalism Matters “What Customers Really Want Survey” (see full report here),
I’ve identified 5 TRAGIC Customer Service Mistakes too many companies are
1. Most customer service efforts are focused on “fixing” the
problem instead of eliminating it. What’s the difference? Eliminating
the problem is about identifying the root cause to ensure that problem never
occurs again while “fixing” it is about addressing that specific customer’s
complaint and moving on to the next call.
When I ordered a tie for Father’s Day with my infant son’s picture on it
and realized that the company put the wrong baby’s picture on my tie, I
immediately called customer service.
Although the CSR (in a very matter of fact tone), immediately offered to
refund my money, I was more disconcerted to see that she had ZERO interest in
figuring out why this happened and what steps she should take to ensure this
problem didn’t happen to anyone else. In
contrast, I read that in an effort to truly find/fix root cause problems one
company had decided to eliminate traditional “customer service” and instead
have their developers/engineers take all customer service calls. This approach not only ensures customers can
talk directly to the person who can fix the root cause problem, but it also
encourages a broader set of employees have direct customer interaction.
2. Most companies have a “customer dissatisfaction
infrastructure” where CSRs are low skilled, poorly compensated, or not highly
Within a company organizational structure, Customer Service Representatives
(CSRs) oftentimes have the MOST regular, direct customer interaction – in many
ways they are the face of the company and have a HUGE impact on not just
customer service levels but ultimate customer loyalty as well. Customers may try a product or service based
on the specifications of the specific product/service, but they often stay with/leave
a company based on the service they receive over time. Given the fact that CSRs have SO much
influence on customer impressions, you’d think that they would be highly
regarded, trained, and compensated….WRONG!!!
It’s exactly the opposite in too many cases. CSRs are typically among
the lowest paid staff with a 2015 median annual salary (according to Bureau of
Labor Statistics) of just $31,720. They’re often entry level positions
requiring little education/training. The
low pay most likely negatively impacts employee morale, turnover, candidate
quality and other factors that can have a dramatic downstream impact on
customer service levels. Companies must not just make changes in how
they recruit, train, and reward CSR staff but also shift the corporate culture
to acknowledge the importance of the CSR role.
3. Increased automation and outsourcing has resulted in
decreased customer satisfaction.
Customers HATE IVRs, phone trees, and phone automation systems but
for some reason, companies seem to insist on using them. To make
matters worse, customers are insulted by being asked to input account
information (sometimes multiple times) only to have to repeat it again once the
agent takes the call. It just makes the "automated" system seem
useless in addition to being frustrating. Even if it's not practical to
ditch IVRs completely (particularly for large call centers), companies should
seriously consider streamlining them to require a response to no more than one
automated question. Another option could
be providing email or IM customer service as an option for customers who prefer
that to minimize the volume of live calls (and thereby minimize the need for
Outsourcing call centers overseas may
save money short term but it also creates significant customer frustration and
decreases customer loyalty. 82% of survey respondents indicated that they have
difficulty understanding their service representative due to dialect.
While there are likely cost savings associated with outsourcing call
centers, it's questionable whether the savings outweigh the long term cost
associated with reduced customer satisfaction/customer loyalty. Also, the
purported "cost savings" may not actually be as significant as they
appear if customers are having to make multiple calls (instead of one) in order
to reach a representative with whom they can effectively communicate.
4. CSR scripts encourage a robotic, insincere experience for
Many respondents commented on the "lack of empathy"
they feel from CSRs during customer service interactions. Having
extensive "If they say this, you say that" scripts are the perfect
recipe for robotic, sterile interactions. Even the most well intentioned
CSR is likely discouraged from actual unique, personalized connection with the
customer when a word for word script is stuffed in their face and they're told
to follow it....or else! Furthermore, scripts seem to discourage active
listening possibly because the agents may be anticipating what the customer is going
to say (based on the options in their script) instead of actually listening to
their specific scenario. Indeed, when asked how often they
felt CSRs truly heard/understood their concern/issue during customer service
calls, only 35% responded “Often” or “Always” (view full survey results here). Anecdotally, they frequently cited this
refusal to listen as a key point of frustration.
Companies should definitely ditch the scripts and instead
encourage CSRs to actively listen and pursue true, authentic customer
interaction. More specifically, CSRs should strive to achieve true
"customer connection" within the first two minutes of the call.
This connection typically includes a sincere apology if the company
dropped the ball in any way, reiteration of the customer's issue (to ensure
they know they were heard) and/or a statement of empathy for any
5. Companies are increasingly removing or minimizing live agent
customer service options even though customers clearly prefer addressing
customer service issues by phone.
In today's era of social media, chat/IM, and email, companies
seem to be trending away from providing live customer service representatives.
Interestingly enough, our survey revealed that
respondents overwhelmingly (49%) preferred addressing customer service issues
by phone. Text/IM came in a distant second at only 19%. Respondents were
also frustrated by the increasing prevalence of companies "hiding"
their phone contact information deep within the website - ostensibly to
make it so difficult to find that customers will give up and opt for other less
costly customer service options like email, chat, or social media. In
short, customers feel that trying to reach customer service should not feel
like an episode of CSI!
As advancing technology reduces barriers to entry and
industries become more and more competitive, companies must do more to keep the
customers they have and gain new ones. I
for one have been underwhelmed by most companies’ attempts at customer service
and feel a rebranding is in order. What
about “Customer Enthusiasm”? In today’s
social media obsessed world where a really bad review from the wrong
dissatisfied customer on the right social media site can make a marked
difference in your bottom line, shouldn’t the new goal be “customer enthusiasm”
– how do we excite customers and make them not just stay with us but rave about
us publicly? Indeed, it seems that the
proverbial “cheese has been moved” in the customer service arena and what
“worked” yesterday may not be sufficient tomorrow.
Dana Brownlee is
an acclaimed keynote speaker, corporate trainer, and team development consultant. She is President of Professionalism Matters,
Inc. a boutique professional development corporate training firm based in
Atlanta, GA. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Connect with her on Linked In @ www.linkedin.com/in/danabrownlee
and Twitter @DanaBrownlee.