A recent blood pressure elevating experience I had has made me think about customer service in general and more specifically the disparity between intended service levels and actual service levels that we as consumers face.
I recently shifted my telephone and broadband (although where I live it would be more correct to call it “only slightly broader than narrow-band”) from one provider to the other we have to choose from in our current duopoly. My reasons for changing were simple – a better fit for my particular situation in terms of product offerings.
After some time I finally managed to get the relevant information from the new provider. Admittedly this process took half a dozen phone calls with me having to explain the situation at length and on multiple occasions. This surprised me as I had always thought that I as a simple customer would have less of an understanding of a suppliers products than the supplier themselves – seemingly this is not the case which begs some questions about employee training that are for discussion another time.
Having finally switched providers I was most pleased to receive my first invoice and see that the change had saved a substantial amount of my former telecommunications spend. I did however have a couple of small questions that I wished to ask of the provider and in order to get some answers I decided to call them one weekday morning.
I firstly had to spend several minutes talking to a machine to describe the minutiae of my enquiry so that I could be ported to the correct department. Having thus ensured that my pronunciation and intonation was correct I arrived at the department relevant to my enquiry. I was then informed by an automated attendant that the wait time for my type of enquiry was 28 minutes! Bear in mind that this was a weekday and was a stock standard question which could have been easily and quickly answered.
Now beyond the obvious annoyance caused by a not insignificant proportion of my day being wasted waiting for an answer, this experience calls into play a couple of questions that I wish to raise. Firstly have companies really though through their customer service models such that they are effective and fulfil the needs of their customers or prospective customers? It would seem in the telecommunications industry, players are quick to extol the virtues of their particular product offerings, but no one (other than some token gestures) is differentiating on service levels.
Now I have no advanced knowledge of the telecommunications industry but given that it seems to be particularly competitive, the players would gain hugely from building a relationship of loyalty with their customers. This loyalty is not hard to create – make customers feel that they are listened to, their comments are reacted to and that the business is evolving in more than just purely technological directions.
The second question is more rightly a real opportunity for telcos. Finally frustrated with holding a telephone to my ear, I went online and visited the website of the particular service provider. After twenty minutes or so of hunting, I managed to find an answer to the questions that I had. 20 minutes however is too long given that the questions were stock standard simple ones and that I spend a good part of my working day online and have a fairly good understanding of how to navigate the web. Those responsible for promulgating their particular organisations information on the web need to take a long hard look at the presentation of the information. They should assess their own performance utilising the thirty second rule. The thirty second rule is very simple – anyone visiting an organisation’s website for routine questions should be able to find an answer within thirty seconds. Any longer than this should be seen as an organisational failing.
So telcos need to take a long hard look at their businesses and remove some decision making power from the technical departments of their businesses and firmly ensconce that power with individuals that have the breadth of vision to appreciate that service is key, and that even in a highly competitive market, consumers still want to be able to come away from an encounter feeling delight at their experience, not frustration.
Until that time, consumers such as myself will try everything in their power to avoid having to communicate with businesses, a situation that is a dangerous one for those businesses.