Those 30-second customer service calls are costing a fortune


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It’s not uncommon for companies to have many “small issues” that customers regularly encounter. You know the type: an order hasn’t been delivered on time, steps in the manual aren’t clear, or invoices are incorrect. These are often characterized as small because they have a relatively minor impact on the customer and don’t require a lot of work on the part of a customer service agent to address. The customer picks up the phone, starts an online chat, sends an email, or even uses self-service to get their answer. It’s a quick interaction for all involved.

The problem is these issues really aren’t so trivial. As the saying “the straw that broke the camel’s back” goes, they add up. Yes, that short call, email, or chat has a few not-so-obvious costs associated with it. The fact is, common customer issues end up taking a greater toll and undermine a company’s success.

Operational costs

The hard costs associated with answering calls, emails, and chats will vary from business to business. Most companies have calculated it as cost-per-interaction or cost-per-minute based upon a combination of fixed costs like infrastructure and variable costs like employee salaries. Costs might seem minor for a 30-second interaction.

Simple issues also typically comprise the bulk of contact customers make with customer service. This means they tend to constitute much of the volume of calls, emails, and chats. Despite a low cost to address individually, the problem is the volume multiplier effect.

While operational costs are easy to calculate, the costs in the next two areas may be more difficult to calculate. As a result, they might not even be considered–even though they stand to pose an even higher risk to the business.

Negative customer experience

Though the customer may receive a fast answer, it was still a bump in the road of their customer journey with the product or service. Customers rightfully expect an effortless experience, not to face challenges and to be forced to take time out of their day to seek a solution. When a customer encounters enough inconveniences like that, they begin to reevaluate if a product or service is actually fulfilling their needs and might start shopping around for a new provider. They also are less likely to offer positive reviews and referrals to other customers.

The volume of small issues also has collateral damage on other customers’ experience. The volume of these issues, despite a fast handle time, can create a bottleneck for customers with less common or more complex issues. As a result, they must wait that much longer for a solution due to agents being tied up.

Agent impact

Frontline customer service agents have a tough job. As the face and voice of the company, they must professionally and efficiently solve customer problems. While some might enjoy the fast turnaround on simple issues, these types of problems might affect them in less positive ways.

First, they might feel bored and frustrated. If the bulk of their calls, emails, and chats are repetitive and mundane, they may sound bored and disengaged with customers. Bored and disengaged never scores highly in customer satisfaction surveys.

Second, their pride may be reduced in the company. If hundreds of customers are experiencing the same problem over-and-over but nothing is being done to turn the tide, they may experience dissatisfaction in their work.

Employees with great customer service skills are hard to come by. Agents having feelings of boredom, frustration, and a lack of pride may choose to look elsewhere for jobs. Reduced retention results in higher training costs and a decrease in overall staff knowledge and skill, which in turn reduces efficiency and customer satisfaction.

Go ahead and sweat the small stuff

In many cases, small issues go ignored because they seem so insignificant. Yet like individual strands of straw, they have weight–weight that, when not monitored, can go from manageable to disabling. The same holds true for customer issues.

Granted, not every issue can be put to rest. It probably doesn’t make sense to recall product currently “on the shelves” to address an unclear action in the manual. What does make sense is to immediately produce a revised version and replace the unshipped stock with it. The cost of destroying the old manuals is small compared

Take a close look at those small issues that daily come into your contact center. While a permanent solution might not exist for every single one, identify and address the root cause of those that you can. By permanently addressing these issues, operational, customer, and employee costs–both calculable and immeasurble–can be eliminated, saving more than just the bottom line.

Paul Selby
I am a product marketing consultant for Aventi Group. Aventi Group is the first product marketing agency solely dedicated to high-tech clients. We’re here to supplement your team and bring our expertise to bear on your top priorities, so you achieve high-quality results, fast.


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