I’ve been involved in customer service in some form or another for quite a few years now. I started off on the phones at AT&T. I eventually moved on to other things and am now creating policy and processes for Microsoft. Even though I don’t actually talk to customers anymore, I occasionally listen to customer calls. You know the message, “this call may be monitored”. And it’s amazing how far removed we are as corporations from the idea of providing quality customer service. I recently listened to a call where the customer was aggravated over a $5.00 activation fee on a service they didn’t even use. Yes, technically they agreed to the terms and conditions (the scapegoat of all customer service representatives when they don’t want to be helpful), but it was 5 bucks.
Once upon a time, companies had a number that could be taken into account that isn’t used anymore; it’s called the cost per call. When you call into customer service, the company is paying to support that 800 number. They are paying the person to answer the phone, they are paying the manager to eventually get on the call, and they are paying people like me, the back end people who create the processes for those front people. So for every minute you are on that phone, the cost per call to that company increases.
It used to be the manager would get on the phone, and think outside the box, assuming the person deserved it; they would provide a refund or credit. Now days, they will argue and argue with the customer about a charge that would cost the company less overall to just provide the refund. Not only do companies loose money due to the cost per call, they loose in word of mouth. Think about this, for every bad customer service experience you have, how many people do you tell? Now compare this to the positive customer service experiences you have and how many people you tell. Statistically, people are more inclined to tell the negative (I read a study on it a while back).
AT&T/Cingular/at&t has gone from one of the top rated companies in customer service to one of the bottom.
In the end, everyone looses. The customer leaves unhappy and doesn’t receive the potential benefits of the product. And the company looses in the bottom dollar and reputation. Who’s to blame? Everyone!
Upper management: Is so far removed from the customer experience, they don’t promote quality customer service, only the numbers they see on presentations and reports from people like me.
People like me: Yep, I’ll even take a small part in this. I’ve been sufficiently beat down by the corporate politics game that I don’t speak up or create presentations around quality customer service. I used to, that’s one of the reasons I was “The Cranky Corporate Monkey” at Cingular. But now I do what I’m told, I think of ways to reduce head count and improve systems, processes, and policy to save the company money on some report that goes to upper management. Sure I still occasionally try to voice my opinion but people like me are becoming fewer and fewer.
Customer service reps and their managers: Totally, they can take the initiative, care a little bit about the company they work for, and think outside that box. Policies are guidelines, they aren’t written in stone. Use good judgment.
The customer: Suck it up! Is a few dollars worth the aggravation that goes along with calling into customer service? I wish it were but it’s not.
Keep up hope my fellow readers; life is a large circle and things always come around. Look at Christmas; a few years ago it was taboo to say, “Merry Christmas” You had to say, “Happy Holidays” instead. This last year, a lot of people were back to saying, “Merry Christmas”. Customer service will come around too. One of these days, upper management will realize again the value of quality customer service. And as we all know… it flows downhill.