Customer Service Rage: Myth or Reality?

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Have you ever heard of customer service rage? This is what a New York Times article had to say about it—”..you fume. Your face turns red. You shout things into the phone that would appall your mother.” To be accurate, they called it “tech support rage”.

Wondering if customer service rage was true or just “fake news”, Joe Consumer wanted to experience it for himself. As someone who would rather buy a replacement product than venture to get customer service for something he had purchased, this was the ultimate in adventure—more daring than tight-rope-walking across the Niagara or other such relatively tame activities. Here is a chronicle of what happened (the adventures have been condensed and company names masked):

E-tail Non-Therapy
Joe went shopping online, looking for various mundane things for his household (hence the term “non-therapy”). As he searched on leading retail websites, here is what he found:

Search terms Results
No scent pain relief———————————–>No sting pain relief cream
Sofa with footrest————————————->A few sofas with headrest
Walking shoes——————————————>Hits on intimate apparel, followed by hits on running shoes (no walking shoes presented)
Non-stick saucepan with no Teflon———————->Scores of hits on pans with Teflon

With results like these, shoppers are forced to talk to an agent. And in 9 out of 10 cases, the agent has no clue what happened in your self-service interaction, asking you to repeat information, further exacerbating the shopper’s frustration—non-therapy nonpareil! No wonder in Forrester’s Retail CX Index for 2017, only a handful of individual brands saw their scores move in a statistically significant way, and all but one of those moves were down!

Adventure #2: Non-Productive Path to Productivity
Joe wanted to be more productive at home, and ordered a desk online from a leading office supply and furniture store. He noticed that the desk went on sale just a few hours after he ordered it. Annoyed, he cancelled the order, and made sure to confirm with a contact center agent that it was done. The next morning, he received a notification that the product had been shipped. Upset yet again, he called the retailer and told them he had already cancelled the order and did not want the product. He was told that it was too late to cancel. He called again and got some other agent on the line, who said they would give him a reduced price if he accepted the product upon arrival. Eventually, that was what Joe did, and got the price break. While it was a semi-acceptable conclusion for him, the end-to-end experience was in no way enjoyable for him as a shopper, another example of retail experience that calls for post-shopping therapy rather than shopping therapy!

Adventure #3: Clinical Omnichannel Dysfunction
Joe had to say hello to a doctor as part of “scheduled maintenance”. Due to an unexpected conflict, he had to cancel the appointment, which, he did online. However, several hours later, he got a call from an “overzealous”, proactive notification system reminding him of an “impending” appointment. Thankfully, it provided him an option to cancel it during the same interaction, which Joe availed himself of. Joe started wondering if omnichannel dysfunction was a clinical problem that went beyond behavioral, pun intended!

Adventure #4: Please don’t fire me!
Joe Consumer was moving from House A to House B. He called his CSP (Communication Service Provider) about internet connectivity. The agent told him it would be straightforward—pay, plug, and play. Meanwhile, Joe also got a call from a field sales person about the move, and he had no knowledge of the contact center interaction that had already taken place. Joe told him there was no need for the service since he thought he was all set already.

Joe moved to House B, and not so unexpectedly, the internet connection did not work. He called the CSP’s contact center, and spoke to three different agents, who gave three different answers, one of them being right. Now that the internet was up and running, Joe switched his attention to the phone service he was getting from the same CSP, as the phone was not working. He was asked to call a different number, where his call got disconnected. He ultimately had the problem resolved but the CSP had switched his own phone number on him! Meanwhile, he also got a somewhat-stern notice, telling him that he had been fired (paraphrasing for drama), and asking him to return the equipment! Too lazy to switch providers, Joe spoke to the contact center again, asking to be retained—his wish was benevolently granted! While the number change helped Joe lose some unwanted “friends”, he had to provide the new number to his real friends and family as well as many businesses that he was dealing with—an omnichannel ordeal added to shifting homes, which is not exactly fun!

Adventure #5: Spare Me the Swim Class
Joe’s pressure regulator was not working properly and it was located just outside his house, close to the wall. Not a big deal, Joe thought—after all, he had a premium home warranty with a leading company. When he contacted customer service to get a clarification, he got different answers from different agents regarding his entitlement. In one case, he had to walk the agent through the contract to show that he had purchased the premium warranty, not the basic one, and he was, indeed, entitled for the service! After going through multiple conversations and omnichannel disconnects across the website, phone, and field service companies (he had to switch field service too since the first one he had been referred to was unresponsive), he got the issue resolved. Joe breathed a sigh of relief he did not have to enroll in a swim class to survive in a flooded house (though he also knew it might come in handy as the polar ice cap continued/continues to melt!)

As he went through a few more similar experiences, Joe Consumer noticed that his voice kept rising, his language was starting to approach the politeness of contemporary political discourse, and the pointer in his sphygmomanometer started to stick out of the device. He looked at the mirror to make sure he had not turned into a werewolf or something of that ilk.

Epilogue
As I looked at the mirror, I realized I had yet to turn into a werewolf (unmasking Joe here since the story has a good ending!). I took the right steps just in time—I took a deep breath and read/video-viewed the success stories of our clients. The bluest of blue-chip companies, they had been able to make transformational improvements in customer experience and contact center operations. Here are some examples:

• Up to 30% improvement in NPS ratings from customers
• Up to 25% in FCR
• Up to 75% improvement in speed to agent competency

I started feeling better, knowing that many businesses are doing a great job with not only CX but also AX (agent experience)!

Their formula for success had the following ingredients:

• They built their customer service and engagement strategy on a unified, digital-first, omnichannel platform
• They leveraged rich, out-of-the-box capabilities from a vendor, focused on customer engagement, rather than get bogged down in expensive and time-consuming customization and integration projects from do-it-all vendors
• They used a central, yet omnichannel knowledge management system, guided by AI for information discovery and process expertise
• They used connected analytics to identify and eliminate friction points in customer and agent journeys as well as holes in their knowledge-base
• They partnered with and leveraged best practices recommended by a vendor with a proven track record over the years

While I realized that customer service rage could be real, based on my own experiences, I also knew it could easily become myth with the right technologies and the right solution partner. The next step is to convince all the businesses that I dealt with in this article to become our clients!

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