Keeping the Front-line Informed is Essential to Successful Service Recovery

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Have you ever received information from a company that was wrong? How did it make you feel about their product of service?

A reader shared an experience after having trouble with the PVR (Personal Video Recorder) for their TV.

The problem was that recorded programs would freeze in the middle of the program and the rest of the recording could not be played.

They contacted customer service about this problem as it was still under warranty. The customer service representative advised them to pack up the unit and they would arrange for a courier to pick it up to be repaired or replaced. However, the CSR couldn’t give them a time frame on the repair as there was a “backlog”.

The courier arrived as promised to pick up the unit. However, after two weeks with no news, the customer decided to call for an update.

They were told there was still a backlog and their unit was still waiting to be checked. Again no time frame was offered for the return.

Two more weeks passed — so another call. After a long discussion, the CSR indicated a new unit would be sent and would arrive within five working days.

The unit arrived, but when the customer opened the box they discovered that not only was it not a new unit, but it was the old unit returned packed in exactly the same way as when they initially sent it off.

Rather dumbfounded at this discovery, the owner called the call centre again and asked why they were given the old unit back and why hadn’t it been fixed. The reply was that the problem was actually in the programming and they were waiting for a new patch to be created that could simply be downloaded onto a memory stick and then uploaded onto the set top box.

The patch was planned to be available by the end of that week — so they were told. After numerous phone calls and emails back and forth over the course of the following four weeks, the patch was “still coming” and “wouldn’t be long now” was the basic reply, no matter who they spoke to.

Finally, six weeks after the initial call, they received the patch to download and once it was uploaded to the unit, the problem was fixed.

My Perspective: This is typical of a company that is focused more on themselves than their customers.

None of the people the customer spoke with seemed interested in taking ownership of the call or finding out the facts. They seemed more interested in getting the customer off the phone as fast as possible — possibly to keep their time/call down and call rate up.

Also, where did the initial operator get their information when they advised the customer to ship the unit back for a physical repair? Did they make it up? Was it simply an easy way to make the customer happy and get off the phone or did they actually check with someone? They wasted 2 courier charges and still ended up with an irate customer.

There are a number of issues here — but the most critical were a lack of communication about a technical problem supported by an intentional customer service strategy to deal with the issue, and secondly, employees giving customers information they don’t know to be true.

Even though the problem was eventually fixed, this customer was left with a negative experience regarding that brand and probably won’t use them again or recommend them to their friends.

Avoiding the issues and leaving employees to fend for themselves with customer service issues does no one any favours — so make sure your strategy for dealing with issues is intentional and supports the front-line team. And if your employees don’t know the answer, make sure they know how to find out before giving false information to a customer.

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