In this past Sunday’s The Haggler, (David Segal. “When Your Longest Call Is the One to Correct the Bill.” The New York Times, August 14, 2014), David Segal covered a particularly bad customer service experience with AT&T. To summarize: AT&T wasted countless hours of a doctor’s time while resolving a billing issue that had been going on for years. The Doctor’s longest call weighed in at three hours and seventeen minutes. (That’s all of James Cameron’s Titanic, plus a three-minute break.)
It goes without saying that there were a lot of problems with this customer service interaction. But the worst part to me, as David Segal emphasizes, is that “there were no apologies.” AT&T’s spokesman responded to Segal’s email by saying that an apology is a basic part of their policy. But apparently this apology never came.
Why are these horror stories so rampant? Most likely because AT&T doesn’t measure empathy. In our work, we’ve seen companies rate reps on time-to-resolution, cross-sell-rate, conversion rate, and even greeting perkiness. But (until we revamp their criteria), we almost never see empathy—a basic expectation customers have for customer service—measured and rewarded.
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Since the rise of social media, companies recognize that creating meaningful connections with customers is critical to their long-term success. And yet, they are still not measuring their connections with customers in meaningful ways.
In order to truly improve customer service, companies need customer experience metrics that are based on concrete scoring rules. Among other things, these rules MUST quantify the degree to which associates empathize with their customers.
I’ll bet that if AT&T starts rating reps on their ability to empathize with customers, customers will start hearing a lot more apologies—and when customers hear genuine apologies, they might not feel the need to involve The Haggler.