What Does “Service” Mean in Customer Service?

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It seems that many companies are investigating their interactions with customers these days. They may be focussing on the wrong issues, however!

One of my clients asked me to check out some improvements they had made to their customer service activities. When I called the customers, they reported almost without exception that they had noticed the improvements, they were beneficial, just not in the customers’ highest priority areas for the customer service activities.

In fact, the areas of the highest improvement priority for the customers were the same as I had found six years previously in a similar study: having good language and communication skills on the part of the phone rep, making sure they understand the customer’s issue.

While the client was very happy to have invested in success with their improvements, the customers were not all as excited as the client was. The customers were thrilled to be asked their opinion, and happy that improvements were being made. They just wished improvements could be made in other areas. The customers were hopeful because the results were encouraging. The hope was that as progress was made, more important issues would be tackled.

How about your company? Do you know your customers’ highest priorities for improving your customer service activities? How many customers actually like all of the phone trees they must navigate to get where they want to go in your system, or even to hear an actual customer service employee? My guess would be….NONE!

The phone trees that I have had to navigate just this week remind me of the days when I worked at GM: we are going to do this to you just because we CAN, not because you want it! Remember, according to surveys as many as 75% of all senior managers and above NEVER talk to a customer. Now, it seems that the companies want to make sure that the customer almost NEVER talks to an employee!

Even when you are able to access an employee in one of the phone trees, you are often asked two or three times for the same pieces of information! …name, birthday, address, phone number, etc.
Today I stared at the phone when the automated system asked for my birthday for the third time on the same call, before I got to my destination in the tree. Someone blew it when doing the logic for this phone tree!

Do companies understand that this phone call may be their only access to the customer? This is the company’s voice and face, and it seems so dense and downright stupid! I wonder what research is conducted on these systems. I have friends who are the “IVR Docs.” They try to make sure their clients don’t encounter these difficulties.

What are your experiences? Have you found phone trees that work well? Share with the rest of us, please!

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