Uncomplicating the Customer Experience


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We live in a complicated world with complicated people, things, and technologies, and sometimes that also serves to complicate the service we receive. While I am a big fan of checking out a company’s website to help me answer a question, every now and then I just want to talk to a human. Therein lies the challenge. As we’ve all no doubt experienced, it can be a tricky process to find the live people that work in the company we’re trying to reach. It usually starts with the Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system, which will either present an option to get to a live customer service person right away (absolute heaven), or result in an endless labyrinth of instructions, responses, and keypad punches until it all ends in frustration with a swift hang up.

At times I have to wonder if all of our advancements are enhancing our world or adding to its complexity, especially when it comes to delivering a memorable experience that should make our customers’ lives less stressful and more enjoyable. In my quest for great service, I seek out those companies that go out of their way to take the hassle out of my life by making it easier for me to get to that all-important live customer service professional when I call. Let me share with you some of my favorites:

Vermont Technical College – I called to schedule a campus tour for my son and was almost taken by surprise when a real human being answered the call. It was a refreshing change from the usual call routing experience I’ve had with colleges and universities of late and the interaction was extremely customer friendly.

Xbox Live – Last week, my son and husband could not get onto Xbox Live to play their favorite games (egad!). While it pained me greatly to call the Xbox folks because I knew that the end of the call would mean we were back online, the IVR process was quick and the representative I spoke with was exceedingly nice to me, clearly demonstrating one-touch service despite my crankiness. Rather than have me make a gazillion phone calls, she patched in a support person from the company who manufactured my wireless router in order to make my experience easier and much more pleasant. I was impressed by all of it.

Eddie Bauer – The concept of empowerment runs strong at Eddie Bauer, which encourages all associates to approach customer service like the company’s founder did. Eddie Bauer would go out of his way to resolve customer concerns the first time and his legacy lives on today in both the direct service and the IVR process. I can sense it in the stores and when I call their toll-free line for assistance. That kind of focus makes me very happy.

As you’ve probably figured out if you’ve read this far, it’s all about keeping the end user in mind and designing a customer service experience that seeks to uncomplicate rather than overcomplicate. Customers continue to rate IVRs at the lowest satisfaction levels – 61% per the 2010 Contact Center Satisfaction Index – and 45% of those surveyed admitted they tried to immediately bypass the automated system in favor of a live person to avoid the inevitable frustration. Forty-eight percent of those who reached an IVR before the human reported that they could not get their problem solved via the automated system, and overall, customers who reached an IVR first rated their service experience 9 points lower than those who directly connected with a customer service professional.

What can we do to improve the situation? Here are a few thought-provoking questions to consider:

  • If service is an important part of your business, and I’m guessing it is, what are you doing to make customer experiences easier and more pleasant?
  • Do you track customer complaints by reason to quantify those who are reporting frustration with your IVR?
  • Is there a mechanism for your customer service team to report the IVR issues being reported by customers?
  • How do your IVR metrics look? In particular, how many calls hit the IVR then abandon after 30, 60, 90, 120 seconds? The greater the time before abandon, the greater the chance that the customer hung up due to menu frustration.
  • Do you use your own IVR on a regular basis in the same way your customers do to ensure that you and your customers can truly relate?
  • When was the last time you assessed your IVR’s menu options to make sure they really make sense and are helping your business?

At the core of exceptional customer service is an exceptional interaction between the customer and the customer service representative, and we want to be sure it’s not clouded by an annoying experience before they reach the live person who can help them. Making it easy for customers to get to get a hold of the amazing humans on our teams quickly and easily will only add to the positive experience we want each of our customers to have.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Teresa Sinel
Teresa Sinel is the Director of Operations, Analytics and Innovation for VIPdesk, the award-winning pioneer of home-based virtual customer care solutions for global brand leaders committed to enhancing their brand experience. Serving over 40 client programs and 10 million customers, VIPdesk specializes in delivering Concierge Programs, Contact Center Services, and loyalty programs for national brand leaders in the travel, auto, financial services, real estate and retail industries.


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