Sunday, December 22, 2013

Making Customers Wait May Drive Them to Your Competition

While today's customers demand a choice of contact channels, studies have shown that self-service is very effective for the simplest of customer issues or requests, but that complexity drives channel choice.* Customers want to speak with a human about more complex questions or problems.

But what happens when customers do call about a complex issue may not be helping your brand's perception with your customers. In fact, it may be damaging your credibility and possibly even driving your customers to the competition.


Two things happen:
  1. Customers have to wait in lengthy customer service queues
  2. Customers have to repeat information they've already given
Imagine calling your friend Pat to ask a question about this week's PTA meeting, and being told to hold on for a few minutes while Pat's phone repeats how important your call is... then when Pat gets back on the line, you have to identify yourself and your reason for calling all over again. Annoying? You bet. And yet so many brands do this to customers all the time.

According to a study conducted in September, 2013 by Virtual Hold Technology, 64% of customers will hang up after waiting on hold for 5 minutes, and a whopping 91% will hang up after 10.  So, why do companies make us wait and then (96% of survey respondents said) have to repeat information? [Infographic]

The alternative would seem to be to increase staffing to a level they cannot afford, they say. Well, that probably isn't true. Information capture technologies exist that can integrate with self-service (and other channels) to provide call-backs in the place of long hold times, and will capture the relevant information so that customers do not have to repeat it.

If you can stop needless hold time, bring together information from multiple channels, and end the annoyance of repetition for your customers, why wouldn't you? After all, 90% of the consumers in the VHT study said that a positive customer experience will increase their loyalty.

What do you think? Would getting a call back instead of waiting in a queue make you feel better about your own customer interactions with a particular brand?

Give it some thought.

*See the American Express 2012 Global Customer Service Barometer (PDF)

Sunday, December 15, 2013

What Does Fake Sign Language Have to Do with Customer Service?

By now, It's more than likely that you've heard the news stories about the reportedly bogus sign language interpretation at the memorial service for Nelson Mandela. A man somehow got to the podium* and proceeded to make believe he was signing along to what the world's leaders were saying, when all he was doing was making random motions.

As I thought about this episode more, I realized that there's a widespread parallel in the world of customer service and customer experience: Brands that look like they are doing something to connect with customers, but which are only going through motions that bear a slight resemblance to getting it right.

We've all had the annoying experience of sitting on hold and waiting to speak with someone who can help us while hearing endless repetitions of the refrain, "Your call is important to us." I will wager that you either said out loud or thought, "If my call was important to you, I wouldn't be sitting on hold for 10 minutes, now would I?" I, for one, would rather hear where I am in the queue (third, fifth, tenth, etc.) and/or how long I'm going to have to wait. Better yet, I'd like the option to get a call back, but I digress.

Brands that are for real about their customer service have some common characteristics:
  • A culture of customer service
  • Employees who are empowered to make things right
  • Clear feedback channels - and the willingness to act on feedback
 (You can read more about these characteristics in my earlier post.) 

Brands know that customer service and a focus on positive customer experience is a 21st century differentiator, and may think that the appearance of good service is enough to get them more business. News flash: It isn't. 

If you are contemplating making customer service part of your brand promise, you must do it right. Be in it for real, or don't bother. Don't be known as a fake that just goes through some motions you made up.

Give it some thought.

*How this person got on the podium so close to so many leaders is a very scary thought; it was a very serious failure of security.