I recently had a customer experience that totally threw me for a loop and had me struggling with how to respond in the moment. Are you good at responding to situations like that? I’m often envious of those folks with a quick wit who can think of just the right response. My style is to think about all of the amazing, snarky, or clever ways I could have responded well after the fact.
The experience occurred while I was doing research on some customer service tools for a client. I reached out to a company via chat support to ask about compatibility with another piece of technology. Warning: if you’re an awesome customer support professional, I recommend sitting down before reading this next part. Here’s how the conversation went:
Me: Hi, can you tell me if your system integrates with this technology
Agent: I don’t know.
Me: Is there someone you can ask?
Agent: I don’t know who I would ask.
I sat there stunned for what felt like a few minutes trying to decide where to go next with the conversation. I ultimately said something like, “Ok thanks” and ended the chat. I of course omitted that company from the list of recommendations that I sent to our client. Since that experience, I’ve had this ongoing dialog in my head of the ways I should have responded. Here they are.
Potential Response #1: Get me somebody else. Anybody else!
Why was my interaction with this particular agent so bad? Was this agent just bad at their job? Would I have received a better answer from a manager or another agent? It goes without saying that a well-trained subject matter expert should have been able to tell me what their product could and couldn’t do.
For what it’s worth, I tried to chat a second time with the company and nobody answered. A ticket was ultimately created and I still have not received a response a week later. I’m going to venture a guess that even if I had spoken with a manager or another agent, this company has larger problems at work beyond the poor performance of a single agent.
Potential Response #2: So you don’t want my business?
There’s a big difference between companies that want your business and those that don’t. A company that doesn’t want your business says, “I don’t know.” On the other hand, if they want your business but don’t know the answer to your question they say, “Let me see what I can do” or “I don’t know but I will find that answer for you right away.” Clearly, this company did not want my business and that’s a shame.
Potential Response #3: Is there a shot I can speak with a robot instead of you?
The customer service market is flooded with chatbot solutions with the goal of creating technologies that allow customers to solve issues with the assistance of machines instead of people. There are many cases where this use of technology just makes sense — especially if it reduces customer effort and cost — and I realize this might reduce some of the need for people to work customer service jobs.
That being said, I’m a huge proponent of the human connection and believe that a strong connection between a customer and the person serving them can significantly impact customer loyalty. This experience did nothing to support my case and left me wishing I could have consulted a well-written knowledge base or interacted with a chatbot that knew the answer.
Potential Response #4: Wait a minute. Are you actually a robot
My next thought was, “Was that actually just a poorly programmed chatbot?” It’s a sobering reality when a customer asks an agent via chat if they’re a robot or a human. Typically customers only ask this when they’ve received a poorly written, unhelpful, robotic-sounding response to their question. The reality is that as bots become more commonplace, humans that fail to, well, humanize their responses will get asked this question a lot and there’s no way to spin it as a compliment.
What I’m getting at
When I reach out to any company for help, here are a few of the basic elements I expect:
- I want to speak with a well-trained, empowered human — or bot if it makes sense — who can help me.
- I want to have confidence that the company actually cares about my business. They don’t have to have all of the answers but they must demonstrate a commitment to taking care of me and finding the answers.
- The responses should be tailored to my situation. I’m all for automation and efficiency as long as it’s not at the expense of my experience.
Clearly, none of these elements were present in this experience. I didn’t press the issue and ask for a manager and I didn’t have a snappy response to the poor response I received. The reality is that there are many customers just like me who will simply say “OK thanks” and walk away. Let’s aim to NEVER put our customers in that same position.