How to Make Customer Service Departments Better

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/graggfamily/status/55442087818182658″]

this is space holder texter

This is a random tweet taken from a Twitter search “customer service sucks,” but is pretty much representative of the hundreds of responses (minus the expletives).   I can just feel her exasperation expressed in her hundred and forty characters, because I’ve been there, as I know you have.  Dealing with a customer service department that seems unable to be reasonable, or even listen, she announces her issue to anyone who will listen, hoping that Sprint  does something – anything– to rectify the situation (but in fairness it could have been one of a wide variety of companies, actually.  I selected Sprint because it did come up a lot in the search, as did Samsung).

Recently a friend of mine asked, “Why is it that customer service departments always suck?”  (A bit of an aside here:  For those non-call center folks who regularly read my blog – and thank you – we call center types get that question a lot, followed by the personal anecdote.  “Oh, you work in call centers.  Well, I was calling [insert bad customer service poster child here ], and they kept me on hold for ten minutes while they went to find an answer to my question, then disconnected me!”

Back to the point at hand:  That sounds familiar, right?   You can personally relate to the perception that all (or most) customer service departments suck?   (That’s totally okay.  My feelings won’t get hurt).

Impact on Brand

Now, think about it from a brand’s point of view.  Brands spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a campaign, millions on crafting their overall brand message, all for the purpose of making you (yes, you specifically), trust them enough to want to do business with them.   So as a result of their good marketing and advertising, you do exactly what they asked you to do; you “called the number on the screen.”   Then, in that one brief (but seemingly eternal) encounter with a poorly trained, under-monitored customer service agent, all of their marketing and branding efforts are dashed into the muck.  You abandoned the brand just as quickly as you disconnected your call, left with the feeling that despite their promises, the company basically sucks.

So the next question (the first one being,  “Why do they suck?”), is why is this reality so prevalent?  There are plenty of studies that indicate the impact of a poor customer experience on the overall opportunity cost of the brand, so it’s not as if this is up for debate.  Yet, a poor experience via calling a customer service department remains highly prevelent.  Why?

Senior Management, I’m Looking at You

Based on my experience (which is pretty extensive), senior management tends not to spend time at the call center level of their companies, listening to calls, calling the 1-800 themselves, and talking to agents.   They tend to dislike calling their customer service department every bit as much as we do.  So the key here is getting them to feel our pain.

Next time you have a horrible experience (or even one that doesn’t meet your specific standards), take a moment to find the direct line of a senior executive of the company, and call them.  Tell them your story, and hold them personally accountable for coming up with a solution.  Then tweet it, blog it, smoke-signal it, Morse code it, and otherwise share your experience with everyone you can.  And make no secret of that fact to the senior executive, whose number you now have on speed dial.

You’ll notice a change, I pretty much guarantee it.   And if you want to loop me in to your experience, I’d love to know about it.  I might even blog it!   At the very least, I’ll congratulate you for making the world a better place for the rest of us.

Thanks for reading.  Leave a comment if you like!  And if you’d like me to help your call center deliver fabulous customer experiences (different from Jennifer’s above), let’s connect!

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