Doing some end-of-the-week catchup, and just came across a fantastic conversation between Alan Herrell and a customer service supervisor who only identifies himself as “Greg.” Three stops on this bus so far, and I actually hope there will be more.
It starts with a rant from Alan, Blogging Customer Service by Phone. A wonderful screed, that starts with the problems with website “self service” for customer service issues, and neatly analyzes the steps that a frustrated customer typically goes through before even picking up the phone to dial a customer support line. The pull-quote:
Alan, the customer: “Using the telephone is not only so 20th Century, is the last ditch effort to get our issues addressed, provided of course that website actually provides a number we can use. It is surprising how few companies provide a customer service number. You can find out everything else out from vapid statements of vision from the CEO, stirring mission statements, press releases, marketing materials in any number of formats for your viewing pleasure, SEC registration statements. Shareholder information, and so on.
At this point we are still willing to do business with a company despite having been ignored with the request form, under the assumption we were willing to fill it out, which did not solve our issue, the simple email, which was not returned, both which could have resolved the problem before we pick up the phone…So we call.”
Read the whole thing.
Alas, Greg, who is “a senior customer service rep on the phones for a consumer tech company,” disagrees. Violently. Seven long ‘graphs of pseudo-statistical rationalization of why phone based customer service is horrible. (Here’s the paraphrased Cliff Note version: “If customers were smart enough to solve the problems themselves using the tools we gave them, they wouldn’t have to call us.”)
Greg, the customer service rep: “So in reality, my experience is that about 1.5% of people who get through the voice recognition system actually have real issues that aren’t addressed on the website or in the manual. It is the other 99% of the calls that get to a breathing human being that create long hold times.”
Alan picks up thread, runs with it.
Alan: “I want to think that I received value from your product for my money. If there is a question, and I do end up on the phone, the value diminishes in a direct proportion to how much time it takes to get an answer.
If I receive value, I will tell my friends which will in turn sell more of your product to pay your salary.
Do you see how we are all joined at the hip, despite the fact we have never met, will probably never meet, but do share a desire to feel good about the choices we make, knowing that there is someone who we can turn to if there is a problem?“
Alan also has a great lead-in to any phone experience. (Clip, save, put next to the phone. It doesn’t matter if you’re a customer or a service provider. This is a gem.)
“I am calling you because your company already made the sale, but it’s value is diminishing rapidly with every moment I spend waiting for you.”
Greg, in response, sticks by his guns.
Greg: “And as I said, MOST of the calls my unit gets are easy-to-handle issues that wouldn’t require a call if the customer was willing to read and follow written instructions they already have.” (Also a great bit in here about customer service reps who do their jobs “despite the presence of chronic complainers and scam artists.”)
Both sides make their case. Chicken, meet egg?
No, I don’t think so.
Greg, it may be frustrating to deal with “chronic complainers and scam artists,” but, c’mon…what percentage of the population really falls into that category? Don’t you think customers want to get on with their lives, as opposed to spending time on the phone with customer support? Isn’t all the upfront hassle, driven by some combination of poor product design and/or communication breakdowns (could be from manuals to the website to, I suppose, even unmet customer expectations) really the driver to all this?
(hat tip: doc)