Learning from Mistakes?

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Back in November, I wrote about the issue of time, in the article entitled “Remember – Time is Money for You and Them,” which took a look at how a recent study found that the average customer wastes 6.5 hours a year waiting for bad customer service. Now another recent report has been released from the management consulting company Accenture. This is their ninth annual Global Consumer Pulse Survey and it compiles and measures the experiences of almost 13,000 consumers in 32 different countries, and from ten different industries. This 40-page report reveals a wealth of information on what today’s consumers expect from customer service representatives, sales staff and business policies. In a nutshell, customers are not happy, and are taking actions because of it.

Kelly Atkinson discusses the report in her article at Business 2 Community, and highlights three key points taken from the report. Not surprising at all is the fact that the number one point is regarding the waste of the customer’s time. While 91% are aggravated at having to contact a company more than once for a single issue, it is the other group mentioned that should be an easier fix for companies. There were 89% who were totally frustrated at having to repeat their issue over and over to each new representative they got passed to. I have mentioned this travesty in many past articles, and it comes from a lack of communication within the service ranks, and a ball-dropping on the part of the initial service contact.

Today’s representatives seem to quick to pass the buck to the next person, getting it off of their plate. That is fine, as it allows them to move on to helping the next customer in a more timely fashion. However, since the first customer has not been properly dealt with, it just escalated the initial problem. The first contact should have simply taken notes on the issue, and then when they transfer the customer, made sure those notes are relayed to the new representative. Some companies have overcome this barrier by making their computer system work as a single unit, and all information one rep enters can be quickly accessed by the next. This seems to be becoming more common, as I know I hear more and more, “please hold one moment while I read up on your case.”

It is those that do not have such a system, or those that have a CSR that just quickly passes people off without taking the time to transfer the info either verbally or through the computer system. As a CSR, the first thing that should be a priority to you, is to handle each customer’s case until it is complete and they are satisfied. This may simply mean taking their info, and instead of transferring them blindly, to actually get the other CSR on the line, relay the information, and then pass the customer through. Once you know they are in good hands with another live voice who knows the issue, then you can feel free to know your duty is done with the case.

Point two from Atkinson was also a point I have written on in the past, but worth repeating – happy employees will usually translate into happier customers. Atkinson puts it nicely:

While it makes sense to take a good look at your customer service practices, the question isn’t necessarily: ‘Are you treating your customers with respect?’ Rather, the question to start with is: ‘Are you treating your employees with respect?’ Without happy employees, you’re unlikely to have happy customers. Decent pay, decent perks and a pleasant working environment for your staff are all important if you want happy customers down the line. So take a good hard look at working conditions at your company before you start coming up with new customer service policies, and you may well find that half the battle is already won.

This is of course one that management needs to consider, but is good to know by even the frontline CSR, who should one day aspire to be the manager, and will know how to change things for the better.

The third point is related to online and social media support options. Yes, another topic covered often in the past, it is important for companies today to offer online and social media support, but as also discussed recently, do not make that the only option. Leave lines open via phone and live voice service for those not prone to using online options. That being said, yes, online options are very important these days. The report showed that 71% of people used those options, and of course the social media options allow customers to spread the word quickly. So if you successfully do the job, it could greatly be a benefit through social media word-of-mouth.

So, while the report is filled with current bad news from the customer’s mouth, the news is not all bad if this report is looked at from a positive light. If companies in general and those seeking a CSR career specifically, are able to see these warning signs and make changes to the way they perform their service, then this report is a learning experience to make things better. If ignored, then it will continue being bad news for many companies.  

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles, at FreeDigitialPhotos.net

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