Customer Service Killers: “From ‘Efficient’ Automation to Loving Customers…”

April 18, 2017

“How automation, from automated dialing systems, to far too heavily scripted call centre protocols is literally killing the ability of many organisations to provide an acceptable level of customer service”

by Brian Cartwright, 18th April 2017 (originally published on LinkedIn, on the 20st March 2017)

Over the last few months I have experienced some shockingly bad customer service from various customer service call centres of organisations which provide pretty standard services.

I have to say these bad customer service experiences weren’t due to the call handlers themselves being deliberately rude or unwilling to help, in fact it’s more to do with the way the service has been set up and the fact that customer service (certainly in call centres) has become more of an ‘admin’ type function which completely defeats its purpose, which in my view should be to provide excellent customer service!

A good example of a bad experience due to automation is the start of the phone call when you get bounced around an automated dialing system… for what seems like ages, then occasionally you press the wrong option and have to start the whole painful process again. By the time you actually get through to speaking to a real person (which often is not even an option these days), you can be so annoyed and frustrated that the call handler is already on their back foot before they have even had a chance to speak.

This brings me to my next point, in a few of my recent experiences the call handler has appeared to be so focused on reading whatever script they use, they are not actually listening to what I have been asking them. Listening is one of those very basic soft skills that literally makes or breaks people in business.

“Good listeners tend to get on well in business, in fact in life in general!”

I have noticed that most of the call handlers I have dealt with have been taught to paraphrase in order to demonstrate they understand my request, this makes perfect sense, unless of course they weren’t actually listening in the first place.

Here’s an example of a recent call I made which demonstrates how this can go so horribly wrong so fast (In this case my call was with a bank).

Me: “I would like to cancel a standing order please”

Call Centre Agent: “Thank you for your call, allow me to understand, you are calling because you want to cancel your credit card…”

Unbelievable!

What followed was a long-winded and completely scripted discussion where every question I asked was repeated to me, often incorrectly, causing me to have to repeat myself and then have it once again repeated back to me followed by (nearly every time) such comments as: “Thank you for your patience!”, “Are you fine to be placed on hold?”, “Please hold the line”, “Thank you for providing this information”… blah blah blah (all delivered in a very robotic and insincere way).

I have a great suggestion for companies that operate in this way: “Why not change the name of your customer service helplines, instead you could call them customer processing hinderance lines.”

I found the below quote on a website about customer processing technology.

“This both speeds the back-office operation and makes customers feel that they have received a more customized and responsive service”

Rubbish!The way the vast majority of organisations are currently deploying this technology makes me feel like a number, it doesn’t feel customized in any way, and to top it all off it wastes my time.

I personally find it totally shocking that many service providers (often major multinational brands) have basically commoditized customer service which is generally the backbone of any organisation, whether B2B or B2C.

“Just because we can automate certain processes doesn’t mean we should”

Whatever happened to old school customer service, where the person on the end of the phone was a fully trained customer service professional who proudly represented their company and were regularly trained and constantly upskilled in order to provide exceptional customer service every time!

These days as business becomes more and more competitive I believe the winners will be those organisations which provide great customer service every time by ensuring their people are competent at providing exceptional customer service. Those companies will build a reputation for excellence, they will win business by word of mouth and will ultimately be successful.

How did we ever get to this point in the world where companies feel it is good business practice to remove as much of the human aspect as possible from their frontline people to people interactions? We use technology and install automated systems in order to be more efficient and to save costs and to supposedly to provide a better service to our customers. Using scripts for call handlers makes sense to ensure the messages shared with customers are consistent and professional but this has got totally out of hand as many use scripts in call centres as a quick fix to enable them to hire cheaper labour who they don’t have to train properly yet still keep some kind of uniformity across the business. If doing so causes your customers to leave then it’s completely counter productive.

I am not saying it’s wrong to use technology, we should embrace it, but we should also use a bit more common sense, don’t try to cut corners and just use it sparingly. Focus more on caring for your customers, focus on training and developing your employees to be exceptional and show them you care about their careers. In turn your employees will become amazing ambassadors for your brand!

Your customers will love you, and business will take care of itself

To read more articles and posts by Brian, please visit www.thePeopleSupplyChain.com