All it takes is a service call to your cable or internet provider to witness a perfect example of the state of decline in customer service we are all experiencing. Usually a maze of automated menus, mandatory self-help procedures, and several minutes of patience are required just to have a hope to connect to a knowledgeable agent.
Where did this decline in the quality of customer service come from? Hosted telephone operations are so feature-rich these days, companies of any size have access to capabilities to easily “filter” calls. Filtering started with the honest intention of assisting callers simply checking account status or paying balances, when even the caller themselves usually prefer not interacting with an agent. Companies embracing call automation can end up taking it too far by extending filters into canned automations leading to agents repeating canned responses. Somehow, efficiently handling the service calls somehow took precedence over providing the actual service to the caller.
Outsourcing has been wonderful for the bottom line and service is a natural candidate for outsourcing. Outsourced service is always extremely courteous and well organized but short on knowledgeable problem solving. Because outsourced services are not as product and support knowledgeable as the local service provider themselves, they can only provide a top level service. By working from scripts, this type of service can indeed solve 80-90% of issues but customers with that unique issue or those that are knowledgeable themselves and in need a high level consult can be left with no recourse at all. Companies so invested in outsourcing services sometimes cut off the avenue for the customer to communicate with them entirely.
Insufficient investment in services is almost the direct opposite side of outsourced services and can be just as detrimental. When front-line agents are inadequately trained and prepared for the most common issues and concerns of customers, it reflects very poorly on the organization at a time when the customer most needs to be comforted. Customers want to feel confident that they are being serviced by a knowledgeable individual and that the organization cares that they have an issue.
It’s a simple formula that we all know by nature. When you require services you want to be able to help yourself when appropriate or have an easy path to speak to an agent who is knowledgeable about your issue and who appears to actually care that you have an issue at all. It’s not hard – its human nature.
Resurrecting dead services comes through a willingness to invest time, energy, and budgetary resources to company services. Customer issues contain valuable intelligence that feeds product development and satisfaction tracking. Caring about customer issues has the dual benefit of supporting both customer confidence and driving internal planning and company direction feeding every company’s #1 goal of understand and serving the customer’s needs better than their competitor does.