Is your customer service department delighting your customers? I hope so and I hope you’re not forging ahead with bot technology until it’s perfected by “other companies” that have lost their loyal customer bases trying to utilize and perfect their platforms. Good communication is a tricky and nuanced thing even for professional communicators. Frontline customer service people understand all too well the various forms of frustration, desperation, and cadence in people’s voices when they make their “last-straw” calls to deal with a product challenge or service issue.
They understand how to apply empathy, understanding, and just the right tone of voice to calm the customer in order to try to rectify the problem. They understand that when customers are really upset they aren’t thinking straight and their communication can be all over the place. They know how to let the customer blow off some steam and then ask the right questions at the right time in order to see and understand where the real problem lies and whether or not the relationship can be salvaged. Can your customer service rep save the customer and save the day?
Most of these talented front-line customer service people go unnoticed and they go about their jobs day in and day out saving the company’s loyal customers and ensuring the company and its brand loyalty live on in the future.
I want to share a recent story, in fact, it’s so recent that I’m still dealing with it and not sure if it will be rectified to my satisfaction.
I just recently took a short trip with my wife to the San Juan Islands, WA which is just over the border from my home in Vancouver, Canada (that is, because all Washingtonians know they’ll reach another Vancouver in WA if traveling south from Seattle on I-5 just before you reach Portland Oregon) and because we crossed the CAD-USA border my mobile company kindly text me if I would like the option to pay a $7.00 a day roaming fee that would allow me to use my normal plan data, voice and text plan with no extra charges. And the wonderful Hook or selling point was that I would “only be charged for the days I use my phone”
As it turned out I got charged the $7 fee for each day I was in the USA because people called and left voicemails and I even got charged the $7 fee the day after I returned home. I really don’t like waste and I certainly pay attention to my expenses so I was very careful to make sure I only checked messages on wifi while I was back in my hotel room. All relevant parties knew where I was and had no reason to contact me as we were celebrating our wedding anniversary. No calls came in and I was happy that I had spent 2 nights and 3 days without having to answer my phone and or text messages and I only had a few emails to deal with. Complete bliss, or so I thought until I received a text that my monthly bill was available and I noticed it was higher than usual. This is when the real fun started.
It appears I must have pocket-called my buddy Jono’s home number, who ironically was out of the country too at that time and I knew it so there was no reason for me to call him. OK, so that was my mistake and my first and only $7 forced error. The other two $7 charges were, as I mentioned because people called me and left a voicemail message which I didn’t retrieve until I was back in Canada.
How long did it take me to get this information out of my Canadian phone company? The irony being that I had a really difficult time getting my phone company on the phone.
- Step 1. Log in to my online self-serve account.
- Step 2. Look for customer service help.
- Step 3. Because an online chat kept popping up I tried to explain my issue to the chat system.
- Step 4. Because I used too many characters I had to split up my request in two separate messages.
- Step 5. I quickly realized the chat was not a person but a bot so said bot didn’t understand my request.
- Step 6. Got frustrated and told bot it was ridiculous and unhelpful.
- Step 7. Search online for a customer service phone number because there is not one provided in my online portal.
- Step 8. Call number and get an automated voice response without an option to speak with a customer service rep.
- Step 9. Search online for customer service email and when found told to log back into my account or send email without logging in. Thinking that logging into my account would be better. I choose that option and then after re-writing my complaint message and pushing send I get an “INTERNAL SERVER ERROR”.
- Step 10. I try again and the same thing happens except that I thoughtfully copied and pasted my complaint/explanation in a doc file in case it happened again as it did.
- Step 11. I file my complaint/explanation/request again and choose to send it without logging into my account. I push send and I get the message “Help is on its way! Thanks for your email we’re working hard to get back to you within 24-48 hours. We apologize if things take a bit longer but rest assured we’re on the case and you’ll hear from us very soon!”
- Step 12. I try the customer service number again and get a busy signal.
- Step 13. I get really frustrated and decide to start writing my blog about this incident.
- Step 14. I realize that I must finish the task I already started and think I must be more vigilant and keep pushing until I get a customer service agent on the phone. Now I really feel the need to talk to somebody and realize I also must make a mental note to change my service provider, which is a shame as I’ve been with my provider for over 6 years since moving to Canada. I feel a distinct loss of my abnormally high sense of loyalty and want to tell someone how upset I am and why I want to leave after all of these years.
- Step 15. Try the 1-800 number again and go through all the options thinking I missed something. Can’t I just press zero until someone answers the phone? I try that and nothing happens. I decide to really listen to my umpteen options and am told by my automated voice friend that if, in fact, I do speak with an agent and they do make any changes to my plan then I can expect to be charged an extra $10 for any changes they make and that perhaps I would prefer to log into my self-serve account and make the changes on my own? I think to myself “This is much more informative and enlightening than any hold music I’ve ever experienced,”and then I finally hear some real music to my ears. “The average hold time is over 30 minutes but if you Press 2 now you can speak to an agent”.
- Step 16. I press 2 and my automated friend says, “No agents are available call back during normal business hours!” – My automated friend doesn’t even have the common courtesy to tell me what those normal business hours are? I can remember calling them at all hours over the previous years. They’re a modern mobile phone company and as this is 2018 isn’t my phone operating 24/7…and then the phone line cuts off.
- Step 17. Needless to say, I’m incredulous and start to think I have no control over my destiny. I’m about to call it a day as I do have more pressing business matters than my wrongfully charged $21 (or at least $14 I’m sure of). I decide to make one last-ditch effort and log back into my self-serve account to chat with my bot. I decide to keep my request and explanation short and succinct as my bot requested previously.
- Step 18. Here is my bot chat.
- Step 19 – I’m elated when I realize my bot has the power and tools to request a call back so I request one.
You’re booked in!
- Step 20. Wait for my call and subsequent appointment. Relish in my accomplishment and persistence and start fuming as I calculate the wasted time and energy (both intellectual and emotional) I’ve expended to get this far in my bill troubleshooting.
- Step 21. Receive a call from an unclear line from a nice lady from what sounds like The Philippines. Explain to her my frustration and how the technology must be flawed to charge me a roaming fee even for the next day when I’m back home working from my home office.
- Step 22. Request a refund only to find out she has huge limits on what she can do. We go through my itemized bill and I can see for sure that I must have pocket-called my buddy’s home phone. I get excited because I can also see I got charged two days’ roaming fees while I was clearly already back in Canada. She does the best she can with the powers she’s been given. I get $15 off my bill. My pocket call cost me $6 in the end.
THE END! of this technologically advanced ordeal and the beginning of my search for a company that has a simple 24/7 customer service team that can answer the phone and deal with my requests/problems/issues/challenges without 22 steps and having to jump through untold hoops and hours of my precious time.