Why do organisations take us for granted?
In the light of my recent experience with Sony, (including yet another highly unsatisfactory call during which it became abundantly clear that hell will freeze over before they will give me a refund) I have decided to write about the differences between good and bad customer service.
- 86% of customers will stop doing business with you after a bad customer service experience
- it takes 12 positive customer service experiences to make up for one poor one
The irony is that the majority of companies say they pride themselves on good customer service. A Forrester report from 2010 identified that:
- 90% of (North American) firms view customer service as important or critical and
- 80% would like to use customer experience as a differentiator.
I would say that the reality is how they believe they treat their customers is not how their customers feel like they’ve been treated and that there is an essential mismatch between what they think they are delivering against what we think we’re getting. Just because people aren’t complaining, it doesn’t mean they aren’t happy:
For every one customer that complains, there are 26 who don’t (Lee Resource Inc.).
That means there are 26 customers you don’t know about who will go elsewhere because they perceive they have had poor customer service. That’s quite scary isn’t it?
So, let’s look at bad vs good examples on the journey through customer service
1. Ease of contact
In another Forrester report – 79% of people would prefer to use the telephone as their communication method of talking to an organization. This is far and away, the most popular method of contact. So customer call centres are here to stay!
So why is it so hard to call these companies?
There are many culprits here. Some don’t even have a phone number for you to contact them:
Skype are one such organisation – you have to go and use their forums to find an issue. And then make it almost impossible to post a query.
Sony (who may appear a few times in my bad examples, being as they are the most recent organisation to upset me) make you wade through several pages of their website and want you to put things like your product serial code in before you eventually get to a page where there is a number. Even then it’s not terribly clear if it’s the right number.This organisation apparently has a high NPS – how did that happen?
Vodafone – a telecoms company right? I’ve just gone onto their website to try and call them. It’s six clicks to get to a phone number.
There are of course some good examples out there. Those websites where the telephone number is on every page of the website and easily found.
Having said that, I’m actually having a bit of difficulty trying to track any down – certainly not in the large corporations. Bear with as I try and find some…
If you google Sky customer service – You can get to a telephone number in two clicks once you get to their website.
EDF – offers a live chat from their Help Centre page (which is where you go to if you type in EDF customer service) and a telephone number after a couple more clicks. Interestingly enough though, the sales numbers are shown before the customer numbers which you have to scroll down to reach.
Three top tips for ease of contact
- Have an easily accessible customer service number – if it’s not going to be on your home page, make it easy to find from wherever your customer is on your website
- Don’t make it an 0845 or other premium rate telephone number – why should we have to pay for the pleasure of having our queries dealt with?
- Do not try and fob your customers off with an FAQ section. I’m not saying don’t have one – a good FAQ section is very useful – as long as it’s easy to search and get the answer you’re after. But there is nothing more frustrating than trying to find an answer before you’re allowed to contact an organisation. And worse still, after you’ve typed in that the FAQs haven’t answered your question, there’s a final double check from them ‘Are you sure you haven’t found the answer in our FAQs?’ before you’re allowed to submit.
2. Having found a number
We dial the number, only to be faced with a barrage of options. Very few will offer, at this stage, an option of speaking to a human being. What’s more frustrating is if you go down the wrong decision tree of options and end up in a cul de sac from which there is no return. They may want something from you which you don’t have and all you get is ‘That is not the correct response, please re-enter your customer number/Invoice id/starsign of the CEO/whatever else it is that you couldn’t possibly know the answer to’ with no other alternative. Then you are disconnected or you have to hang up and start again with a different route.
Three top tips for ease of contact
- Depending on your business, do not have an automated system, allow your customers to go straight through to a person. Beauty clinics and hairdressers come firmly into this category for example
- Always ensure there is an option to speak to someone at every stage of the options
- If you need the customer to put in a code or reference and they don’t have it, or they do it wrong, the default should be they get put through to a person
And a bonus fourth:
- If you offer a call back service. Make sure you call back within the service level time you have told the customer you will call them. Sony never bothered to call me back.
3. On-line chats as an alternative
These can be very useful if you have a quick query, or you want a log of your interaction with an organisation. I have used them to great effect to cancel policies or to get a refund (big hand to Norton for dealing with me so well – no fuss, no bother, a straightforward refund with no quibble).
But these can be managed badly too.
– If the service is offered, but you can’t get anyone to reply to you.
I was working with one client and their customer support staff had to manage four chats at a time. Which caused all sorts of problems as the product they were supporting was very technical. They would leave customers waiting – I saw screens full of ‘hello, hello’ and ‘is anyone there?’ , or they may respond with an answer that was for a different customer or even simply hang up on them. It was pretty poor!
Three top tips for ease of contact
- If you’re going to offer on-line chat, ensure there is someone to manage the chats for the hours you say you offer the service for. There is nothing more frustrating than being told there is no service currently available.
- Ensure your staff only deal with an appropriate number of customers at the same time. If it’s a technical service or product, then giving them four to manage is probably excessive.
- Ensure your staff have the authority and access to the right systems to carry out the kinds of transactions that your customers may want to do, such as getting a refund, or wanting to know when a particular product is going to be in stock.
- Yay – you’re finally through to a human being!
But are you through to the right person? How many times do you get pushed from pillar to post with no-one taking responsibility for dealing with your issue or query whilst your blood pressure and irritation levels steadily rise?
Vodafone used to be very good at this. I got passed round four people to whom I had to explain the issue each time, only to be passed on and eventually got passed back to the first person I spoke to with the issue still unresolved. Repeat the process…
The four biggest complaints customers have about call centres are rudeness, buck passing, taking too long to resolve an issue and being shoved around from one rep to another (American Express Global Customer Service Barometer survey, 2012). And 93% of the 1000 customers they surveyed believed that companies fail to achieve their customer service expectations.
As I mentioned above, Norton were excellent when I contacted them (admittedly by on-line chat). The lady I ‘spoke’ with, grasped my issue quickly, dealt with me politely, was able to issue me a refund and the whole process was over and done within five minutes. I was suspicious. Could I really have resolved a matter that I suspected was going to take a lot of effort to sort out in five minutes flat? Wonderfully, yes. But isn’t it a sad indictment of customer service that I was wary of when it went well?
Sony could learn a lot from them.
Where most companies fail is in the lack of empowerment of their frontline staff. They are stuck in a process from which they cannot deviate, pass go or collect £200. So unless they have an answer that’s on their list of things they can do and say, you’re in trouble. And then the most infuriating thing of all – they will not pass you on to their manager. ‘It’s not possible’, or ‘the manager is busy now’, or ‘if I can take your details, I will get them to call you back’. I think it’s appalling that management hide behind the frontline staff who have to bear the brunt of their customers’ ire and yet are not given the tools to deal effectively with their customers.
And more often than not, the manager doesn’t call back. And if they do call back, quite often, they too are unable to take any responsibility to deal with the issue.
Top tips for dealing with your customers
- Employ people who like talking to people and who understand the issues your customers face (having empathy)
- Train your staff so they are able to fully understand your products and services and what your policies and processes are.
- Give your staff access to sufficient information that they don’t have to pass your customers on to other departments, or if they do need to get information from elsewhere, they continue to deal with the customer and don’t pass them on to some new person
- Empower your staff. Give them discretionary powers to perform certain actions (within guidelines of course). Allow them to delight their customers from time to time – there is a wonderful example of someone ordering and paying for a taxi for a customer who was having a spectacularly awful morning and needed to be somewhere urgently
- Have a proper escalation process which enables your customer to be passed up the line if they are unable to sort out an issue at a lower level. Have that process documented and listed on your website, so people know how to complain.
In summary – Good customer service is not rocket science.
The saying ‘treat others how you would wish to be treated’ sums up good customer service to me.
- Help customers to contact you – put details clearly on your website or paperwork
- If you need an automated system, make sure there is a way to speak to a human easily.
- Be responsive
- Be nice to your customers
- If you say you’re going to call them back, do so.
- If they send an email request in, don’t take five days to get back to them.
- Help them out if it’s clear you have let them down in some way, or even if they have made a mistake. They’ll love you even more if you help them out of their own errors.
- Encourage your staff to walk in your customers’ shoes – get a bit of empathy going
- Empower your staff to be able to deal with the customers
- Find small ways to delight your customers
- If someone complains, help them, don’t obstruct them
- Learn from your customers – ask if there’s anything you could do better
All of which will result in far happier customers, who are more likely to buy more from you and tell their friends how wonderful you are. And it will definitely differentiate you from your competitors.
And the downsides of not treating your customers well? Also not rocket science. You will lose them and they will tell lots of other people too.
Want help improving how you manage your customers/clients – email me: firstname.lastname@example.org