We all know from personal experience how this plays out on the customer front lines. You call Microsoft, Intuit, HP or whatever’s customer support and get someone speaking a barely intelligible version of your language (if you’re lucky). This person is obviously measured on call count, because he keeps pushing to end the call, problem resolved or not. I even had an HP call marked “successfully closed” or some such despite the “tech” unable to even identify my admittedly exotic monitor, never mind know how to rotate the screen 90 degrees back to normal.
But “behind the lines,” including at management levels, I see stress from excess workload, micromanagement enabled by micro-measurement and fear of losing a job keep internal concerns, including self-preservation, ascendant over customer concerns. Work is becoming more and more about pleasing the boss, which is often antithetical to pleasing customers. Our “pressure-cooker” corporate environments are not conducive to putting customers first.
There is no more hyper-measured function within an enterprise than customer support. You’d be the first to agree, I think, that truly customer-centric organinizations understand the need to go beyond the typical mechanics and metrics of functional performance – which, as your post identifies, burns out so many otherwise effective CSRs and support groups – and help this pressured department proactively build customer relationships and wallet share. The role of employee ambassadors or advocates can be seen in such leading support operations as exist at Zappos and USAA. I explained some of this in a November article for CustomerThink: http://www.customerthink.com/article/linking_employee_behavior_to_customer_loyalty_advocacy
Companies that measure call length and quality instead of customer satisfaction have set the wrong priorities. Their customers will be frustrated – “Oh no – not the NO HELP DESK!” – and give up.
The worst customer support reps – those who are rude, obnoxious, can’t understand the callers – or too hard for callers to understand – will have the shortest calls (because smart people will just hang up when they realize there is no hope that person could actually resolve their issue) and have the highest volume (because their calls end so quickly).
The best support people will actually listen and find resolutions even to complex problems – and they will be on probation or let go because their calls “take too long”.
I have a solution for bad customer service: don’t use that company any more. Find a small business that actually cares or find a way to do without whatever the clueless corporate brands control.
Dick, we have similar issues in the UK, with research complaining of 'rude' customer service agents. While some of this may be justified a lot is down to a combination of poor training, lack of access to the right information and a reliance on metrics that focus on call length rather than customer satisfaction as the goal. More in our latest blog at http://eptica.wordpress.com/2012/01/25/are-customer-service-agents-too-rude/.