This article originally appeared in the DEC. 2012 issue of CUSTOMER Magazine.
In the course of over 20 years working in contact centers and customer experience, I’ve done my share of focus groups and usability tests. And when I’m at a cocktail party as I was last night and people find out what I do, they’re always ready to tell me about a recent bad experience or their customer service pet peeves. Here’s what I’ve been hearing.
- Having to repeat information: This has been a number one pet peeve for years – so why aren’t companies fixing it? In most cases, it’s a training issue. Reps ignore the screen pop, the account number on their phone display or screen because it’s just one more thing they need to do. Never ignore customer data that’s handed to you! Use it to your advantage to ask about a recent order, or anticipate the reason for the customer’s call. And if you must transfer a call, make sure to brief the person receiving the call.
- Employees who aren’t knowledgeable about company policies or critical information: Here’s where knowledge management comes in (see our October column). When KM becomes part of the process and knowledge is easily available, reps can access information without missing a beat.
- Store clerks who ignore waiting customers to answer the phone or continue a conversation with a co-worker: Don’t think I need to say anything more.
- Not getting to the right person the first time: Whether it’s getting transferred or even worse, being told to call another number, customers have little tolerance if someone can’t take care of them right away. In fact, they actually prefer interacting with an automated system to let you know what they’re calling about to prevent the dreaded transfer.
- Having to use multiple channels to get to resolution: Do you measure how many channels customers use to get an answer? Most of my cocktail party subjects say that they prefer to start on the web or mobile but often can’t get at what they need. And they’re even more frustrated when a rep tells them “Oh that’s on the web.” Make sure you have a clear multi-channel strategy with appropriate applications and content on each channel. And see No. 7.
- Long confusing automated telephone menus: Here’s one that’s topped lists for a long time. Have you listened to your IVR lately? Try it out – is it customer focused, friendly, and easy to use? If not, redesign it – and be sure to usability test the new design with real customers.
- Poorly designed web or mobile apps: Here’s another opportunity to walk in your customers’ shoes. Are they able to accomplish common tasks intuitively? Is language and navigation clear?
- Self service that doesn’t have what I need: I find that most people will self serve if they can, so why do we discourage them? Analyze key service activities across all channels and ensure that you’re providing customers with appropriate self-service capabilities. Also, look at what you don’t offer today, especially in mobile service.
- Rude or disrespectful employees: Research shows that many believe Americans are becoming less civil. Hiring and training should emphasize and model the right kinds of behavior until they become second nature. And rudeness should not be tolerated.
- Waiting too long on the phone to reach someone: For many of us, wait times are unavoidable. But there are a number of ways to handle this issue. One way is to make the caller’s time in queue more productive. Have callers start a transaction like a trouble ticket, new service order, or a reservation using automation. Partial automation combines the best of high tech and high touch and reduces call handle times. You may also decide to use technology that calls back customers when they reach the head of the queue, or enable callers to schedule a callback time that’s convenient for them.
- Language issues: Finally, one of my cocktail party subjects admitted that she really hates when she can’t understand the person at the other end of the line or the person can’t understand her. If you’re offshoring calls, make sure that you hire reps with excellent English language skills and make frequent mystery shopper calls for quality control.
Elaine Cascio is a vice president at Vanguard Communications Corp. (www.vanguard.net), a consulting firm specializing in customer experience, self service, contact center processes, operations and technology.
Edited by Brooke Neuman