David J. Danto
Business travel thoughts in my own, personal opinion
Customer Service – October 2022
Some weeks are easier than others. This last week hasn’t been all that easy for a number of reasons. Right there at the top of the list has been customer service. I’ve come to the sad conclusion that the people and processes that companies have put in place to resolve problems are a shadow of what they once were…and I don’t see it getting any better anytime soon.
If we fit into the norms of standard transactions we likely can manage everything we need to do on a self-service portal. It’s when we veer from those norms that we realize how screwed we are. In this past week I had to resolve issues with health insurance sign-ups, get a refund from Amazon for fresh flowers that weren’t delivered on the needed (and guaranteed) date, and fix an order we placed for expensive sunglasses at a brick-and-mortar store that were supposed to be delivered to our home. Nothing went right with any of them, which throws us into the cesspool of what customer service is today.
First of all, let’s take on the gorilla in the room of outsourcing – when companies don’t hire their customer service personnel but rather buy those services from a third party. I personally don’t care where in the world my call is routed to and what the nationality of the operator is, as long as they can competently discuss my problem and speak to me in an accent that I can at least somewhat understand. I find that sadly this minimum of care is not checked at all (or not often enough) by firms that outsource these tasks. If I can’t understand what is being said to me over a telephone line than it will not result in a satisfactory result.
Then, we have the poison of the IT influence in the process – the “ticket.” If the agent needs to document the case for his or her files then fine. But somehow they’ve been trained to think that opening a ticket is an actual resolution to the problem. If you’re telling the customer that a ticket number is being opened for their issue, all that says is that the required tasks to resolve it are out of the capabilities of the agent. I’d rather they just transfer me to someone who does have that capability instead of trying to make me feel better by claiming someone else will probably look at it someday. But of course, that would add cost to the outsourced processes, so it will likely never happen.
The next issue can best be described as a total lack of empathy on the part of the agents. The Amazon agent didn’t care that my wife didn’t get her flowers on her birthday. They see the flowers the same as toothpaste or a book – just wait a couple of days for the “sorry we’re running late” package to arrive, and if it doesn’t “you can always ask for a refund then.” Somehow they don’t understand that in this (and I’m sure many other cases) a late package is valueless. I don’t want to be responsible for more Amazon employees not getting bathroom breaks or proper working conditions, but that is resolved by making fewer “guaranteed delivery” promises, not by guaranteeing the date then missing it for whatever reasons. If the delivery guarantee were honest I and everyone else could make better choices.
I bring up all of these in contrast to the Airline industry - which has had generally better customer service than other firms. Yes, there aren’t as many “waivers and favors” as their used to be, but the likelihood of getting a competent customer service operator has been greater with them than it is with other industries nowadays. Regrettably though, since more competent agents are needed, there are fewer of them available, which makes calling on days with bad weather or other irrops a different kind of nightmare.
If you truly want to judge a firm, have a problem with them and see how resolving with their customer service makes you feel. Most firms spend wayyyy to much on acquiring customers as opposed to keeping them with good service (or perhaps more accurately, not losing them for life with bad customer service.) It is a lesson that many of them will just never learn.
This article was written by David Danto and contains solely his own, personal opinions.
All image and links provided above as reference under prevailing fair use statutes.
Copyright 2022 David Danto
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