Tonya Davis called her internet service provider, Virgin Media, because she couldn’t get a connection. She was put on hold and then treated to Britney Spears singing, “Oops, I did it again” as she waited. An hour later, still on hold, she decided to go to bed but jokingly asked her husband if she should keep the phone off the hook. She did. The next morning, Davis said, “I couldn’t believe it when Britney was still blaring the next day.”
We can all take smug satisfaction that our customer service departments will never be that bad. Yet, ask yourself, will yours ever be in the same ballpark as Zappos? Imagine providing service so superlative that books are written about it and case studies about your service are presented in business schools.
How does your customer service compare?
On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate your customer service? What would the average customer rate it? When is the last time you used your own customer service? While it is easy to recognize poor customer service in other companies, it can be difficult to recognize it in your own. Companies frequently overestimate how good their service actually is.
At Velaro, we put a huge emphasis on customer service, but I know we are not quite in the same league as Zappos. Yet. Because we work directly with so many customer service departments we are in a unique position to see the most common mistakes that companies make. Here are the biggest offenders.
The Seven Deadly Sins of Customer Service
- No immediate access to a customer’s history. Is the person that is complaining about a problem someone who has been regularly buying your product for the last five years or are they a first time buyer? Is this a recurring problem that they had before? If your customer service reps don’t have the customer’s information in front of them, you will be fighting an uphill battle to make the client happy. It’s the digital age, customers expect that you will know who they are when you interact with them.
- Requiring customers enter their account numbers and other information, then immediately asking for it again when an agent comes on. In addition to frustrating the hell out of your customers, you are setting your agents up for failure. Who do you think is going to get the brunt of that frustration even though they had nothing to do with this ridiculous process?
- Making customers repeat their problem over and over. A well trained agent should know early on if this is a problem they can handle or not. And if they have to transfer the call to someone else, they should be able to succinctly explain to the next agent what the problem is. The frustration level for everyone will exponentially rise every time the customer has to re-explain their problem to another agent.
- Not empowering agents. Does everything need to go to a supervisor? Do you trust you agents so little that you don’t think they can make a judgment call on accepting a return or giving a free shipping credit? The cost of paying for additional supervisors and, more importantly, the loss of a loyal customer is much higher than whatever savings you think that you will gain by not letting your agents make any monetary decisions. Empower your employees to turn a potentially frustrating situation into a positive customer interaction.
- Keeping customers on hold without giving an estimated wait time or the option of getting a call back. OK, you don’t make your customers wait 12 hours. But just how long do you think they are willing to listen to Muzak? Customers are OK being put on hold if wait times are clearly stated or if they have an option of getting a call back. I’d be remiss if I didn’t add that having a live chat option gives your agents the ability to deal with up to four customers at the same time. Plus, many customers actually prefer live chat since they have a record of what was said and can refer to it later.
- Listen. If a customer is taking the time to contact you, a huge need that they have is just to be heard and understood. You can’t solve a problem if you don’t fully understand what it is. Often, it’s a simple fix or the customer may even have a better idea of how to solve it. But you won’t know if you don’t genuinely listen.
- Hire the right people. If you don’t do this, the other six tips don’t matter. At Zappos, they are so selective about who they hire to be a customer service agent that they reject more applicants than Harvard. They look for people that listen, people that take their training seriously, and people that they can trust to make a judgment call.
Speaking of the right people, why not sit down with your customer service folks and go over this check list. They will probably have at least seven more tips specifically for your business. Listen. Who knows, eventually you may be a Harvard Business School case study on how improved customer service made you the rock star of your industry.