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Poor Customer Service - Industry Norm or Business Fatigue Today easy-to-use and extremely convenient customer service tools are on offer, which even agents without typing qualifications could use

By KT Prasad

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Customer service - Customer delight - Customer obsession. All in reality mere jargon that exemplifies positivity, optimism and hope for a customer. However when a customer sets out to engage with businesses, many a time they are taken aback by the harsh reality, which is far from their expectation.

In the real world, the unfortunate customer is often enmeshed in a dizzying maze of endless phone calls featuring inane recorded messages and music at the other end of the line, as they are repeatedly put on hold. On other occasions they are passed on from one advisor to another, with their problem remaining unresolved despite it all. The end result is frustration for the customer.

The above scenario is more a norm unfortunately rather than an exception at most times. This might lead you to think that some companies have spent a lot of effort in perfecting the art of demoralising their customers, and in getting them annoyed, rather than helping their business.

Let's look at the various situations that companies adopt (read sarcasm) towards frustrating and agonizing their customers. The following points if adhered to scrupulously, will certainly ensure that the competition stays far behind in this unenviable art. However, to preclude and pre-empt the grim possibility of businesses going from "good' to "not so good' to "bad' and eventually to "worse', tips are also captured on how to achieve better customer service and to keep customers happy.

  1. Passing the Buck

Could I put you on hold for a moment, while I connect you to someone who can help you?"

Have you ever come across the above question? The question gives a customer hope that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Surely, it would be good if you could actually connect with a person capable of resolving your problem expeditiously. However, more often than not the second person is not the right person.

As the problem persists and you continue trying to speak to Customer Service, with a lot of painstaking effort, at times you even become familiar with the names of the customer service agents. How pleasant would it be to be able to give a brief explanation of the issue, and to then be transferred directly through to a person who can assist you promptly? It's not difficult - it simply requires documenting incoming queries internally, and to establish an appropriate methodology for sharing customer data internally and then routing such calls.

2. Call back? No Way!

I'm sorry "I can't do anything at the moment. Please try again tomorrow."

"Ok. Can you call me back when you have an answer?"

"No Sir, I'm afraid we can't do that."
Such exchanges are not imaginary. One would describe this as a retrograde step, in this day of modern inventions and state of the art technology. From the above conversation, it is evident that the poor customer service agent has been provided with a system that can handle only incoming calls. The customer realize to their dismay that it is they who need to contact the company every time, and not to mention resulting in the company's image taking a beating. How simple would it be for the company to send a brief email or to contact the customer through another communication channel?

3. Time stops for no one

"Unfortunately all our call service executives are busy at the moment. Please hold and you will be put through to the next available agent…", followed by music – for the next half hour.

Keeping people on hold is one of the easiest ways to give rise to customer frustration. Time is precious, and the wait seems endless, to a point where the customer feels it is better to disconnect and try some other time. After all, they have their own schedule, timeline and priorities too, and waiting seemingly forever is not an acceptable option in this fast-paced world. By the time an agent comes on the line and innocently asks "How can I help you?", the customer has already moved from a state of mild dissatisfaction to a state of frustration.

It really doesn't have to be like this. Given various alternatives available today, thanks to modern technology, the issue of waiting endlessly on hold must become a thing of the past. The convenient alternatives are Chat, E-mail, Twitter and Facebook, or guiding customers to online help pages rather than waiting indefinitely, with the receiver pressed to their ear.
After all, many people do use messaging apps and would prefer these modes of communication, rather than speak to agents on the phone. Why not introduce the Messenger principle to your customer service strategy? A simple tweet or a Facebook message would be more helpful and appreciated by the customer.

4. It's the fault of "the system', or another advisor – or both

"I spoke to another advisor last week – they were going to look into it."

"I'm afraid I can't find anything about it in the system – something must have gone wrong there."

It is always easy to blame the system, or another advisor when things go wrong. In effect, what this essentially means is that "the system' is not serving its desired purpose as it is not able to save information for more than a particular period - say three days.

As a result this compounding problem at times remains undiscovered for long periods causing irreversible damage to the company. Today easy-to-use and extremely convenient customer service tools are on offer, which even agents without typing qualifications could use. Therefore, the disappearance of information can be a thing of the past.

5. Again and again and again

"Please give me your customer number."

"But I've just given it to your colleague."

"I'm sorry, I need it again."

Most customers who call up customer service would have gone through the above rigmarole. Names, telephone numbers, date of birth and certain other data are required to be constantly repeated with each call – and within a call too, should the receiver change hands. Should you get through the initial phase, don't rejoice yet as there is more in store for you. Be prepared to keep repeating your problem to each successive advisor that you are put through to, and to receive incoherent and varying responses.

It is so simple for companies to use an internal database that can be accessed easily and conveniently by all staff members, one that serves as a repository for all customer-related information in a central database. It would be wonderful to be recognised by customer service immediately on picking up the call, without having to repeat all the information time and again.

6 Honest feedback? Forget it.

"I hope I have been of assistance."

If we're honest, one would certainly respond to the above query with a terse reply, saying: "No, you have not. Let me tell you exactly why and what you could do better".

Yes, that is exactly what we should do. Why then are we expected to be unpleasant over the phone, when the entire process of feedback can be done painlessly through a link in an email?

Lastly, there is one simple question: "Would you recommend our company to other people?" This question, if answered honestly, can achieve a lot. The customers have an opportunity to comment about the entire service rendered by the company. While engaging in the process of improvement, these companies recognize the voice of the customer and encourage them to share their views on what is good, and what could be better. After all, everyone craves for appreciation. This basic human nature leaves unanswered, the question of why companies seldom make use of an opportunity to receive feedback.

KT Prasad

Country Sales Director, Zendesk India

KT Prasad is the Country Sales Director for Zendesk, India. Since joining the Indian office of the San Francisco based SaaS Company in September 2016, he has been responsible for Business growth with a focus on helping customers transform their customer service into meaningful customer engagement with beautifully simple solutions.

He has a Bachelor of Engineering (Mechanical) degree from the Karnatak University and over 20 years of management experience in some of the top companies from the software and services industry. Prior to joining Zendesk, KT was the General Manager with Hewlett-Packard Enterprise responsible for Microsoft Business Applications, Asia Pacific and Japan. He was in charge of delivering Microsoft based business applications such as Dynamics CRM and Dynamics Axapta and leading HPE’s Enterprise Cloud Solutions strategy for Microsoft applications. Prior to HPE, KT spent time with Adea, PSI Data Systems and Agilisys (formerly known as netdecisions) where he played various leadership roles.

In every role that he has held, his basic objectives have been; driving customer satisfaction, improving integration across business units and addressing the unique technology needs of customers.                                                                     


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