Customer Service Agents: The Tale of Two Packages


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Pressure shows the true character and abilities of teams. As much as this may apply to sports teams, it applies to customer service teams as well.

The holiday season for many companies is the “pressure” season for their success. Crowds are packing in stores to get that great deal or online shipping gifts around the country. I have a tale of two holiday packages and how management cuts put pressure on their teams and the results could not have been more different. Too often mistakes are made for the sake of saving a small amount without factoring in long term effects on customers.

I have added a few tips that could help alleviate some of these issues in the future for their teams.

Package #1: Customer Service Goes Above and Beyond

I was waiting for a package to be delivered by Fedex before I left on a trip. When I realized it possibly would not be there before I left the following day, I called customer service. I was told it could be held at a local Fedex hub and I could pick it up in the morning at 8:30 when it opened. Great. Let’s do it.

I arrived at 8:30, was first on line and when I asked for my package, the agent chuckled as she said, “The person you spoke to does not really understand what happens on the ground. It has to be sorted so nothing can get picked up before 9 am, but let me go see what I can do.”

*Customer Service Tip:

Make sure information provided by different teams is consistent with what will really happen .In this case I would recommend someone from front line phone staff and front line store agents got together and reviewed responses to a question or situations like this so the front line agents can provide the correct information.

Back to my agent. I loved the fact she was willing to go find my package, but when she came back and told me it would take longer and was not sure when it would be available for pickup, she saw my frustration and looked at me and said, “I will call you as soon as it is here. We will get it on time.”

And she did. Less than an hour later I got a call and I went and picked up my package, made my flight and delivered my gift. This person’s commitment to getting the job done was exemplary.

Package #2: Is Anyone There to Deliver Customer Service?

This package was coming from an online purchase at a high-end retailer. I opted for the overnight delivery option because we were going out of town and I wanted it before I left.  The website said 1-2 days after processing. Based on my assumption that it would take a day to process (silly me) I would have it in time.

When I checked the next day, the delivery date was scheduled a week later. I immediately called customer service to see what the issue was and this is where their failures began.

After numerous attempts to connect because they were busy. “Your call is important to us, BUT due to high call volume, please call back at another time.”

*Customer Service Tip:

Staff correctly. Customers hate hearing these types of recorded messages. If a call was valuable, they should have staffed accordingly. There are many ways to track historical call volumes, wait times, peak calling volume etc so staffing is adjusted. Maybe it was a management decision/gamble to say that the loss from customers canceling orders is less than the cost of proper staffing. How will you judge long-term loss when customers don’t come back next time?

Finally I did speak to an agent who seemed stressed and overwhelmed. I explained my situation his first reaction was, “Well you could cancel your order.”

I was stunned. I am not sure management would want that type of first reaction from their front line service people but he sounded like he was going down a checklist of ways to solve the problem so maybe it was their first line of defense.

Onward we go, leading him to a solution.

I asked if they could ship to another location instead and he said they could. Great, ship it to where I will be. Here is the address, he read it back correctly and told me when it would arrive. Problem solved. WRONG.

As I tracked the package over the next day I saw it was still headed for the first address. So I called back. “Your call is important to us, BUT due to high call volume, please call back at another time.” I kept calling and got the same message. I would think that the week and weekend before Christmas one would be staffed for customer service help. WRONG. “Please call back during our regular customer service hours of 9-5 Mon-Fri. We appreciate your business.”

No you don’t and so I will have to deal with this after the holiday, if they pick up the phone.

My feeling is that in 2015 customer service is going to play even a bigger role in the success of companies. Do you want a team that will go the extra mile like agent one or do you want a team of agents like the second one who is overworked and canceling orders left and right.

Pressure is everywhere. Your customer service team can either rise above it or just go through the motions. The choice is yours.

Republished with author's permission from original post.


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