Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Semi-annual Customer Service Rant

There's this one commercial on TV. You've probably seen it. At one point a girl promises that "when you call Customer Support, I will treat your problem like my problem".

No. When I call Customer Support, my problem IS your problem. THAT's what Customer Service is. There is no "like".

A whole lot of businesses these days have lost sight of one basic fact of business: your customer is your sole means of support. Lose customers; lose money. It's that simple.

When a customer has a problem, the business must take that seriously and try to resolve it in a reasonable manner. This is not to say that you should put the customer's demands ahead of the needs of the business. Anybody who has spent time in any Customer Service job knows just how unreasonable people can be. Sometimes, a customer just will not be satisfied. That is an unfortunate reality. However, the vast majority of customer issues can be resolved simply by listening to the customer, making sure that both sides understand the other's position, and then acting positively to remedy the situation.

"Going the extra mile" has become a meaningless cliche over the years. It sounds fine, but is very seldom put into practice. Going out of your way to help a customer is not "going the extra mile", it's normal, acceptable practice. "Going the extra mile" means taking initiative, being creative in your problem solving, and leaving the customer feeling like he or she is the most important person in your life at that moment.

One of the more unfortunate outgrowths of the whole self-esteem movement is that people are less willing to subordinate their desires to the needs of their customers. This is not in the least debasing or disrespectful. I can tell you from my own personal experience that providing top quality customer service will drive your customers to respect you more.

A key facet for a quality Customer Service Rep is the ability and willingness to give without expectations of reward. Helping others gives rewards beyond the monetary. Helping others helps you feel good about yourself and builds REAL self-esteem.

Quality service is every customer's right and every employee's resonsibility. If you're not getting it, let your wallet do the talking.


At 8:37 PM, Blogger Mary Louisa said...

THANK YOU. I often let my wallet do the talking.

One problem that persists for us, though, is that even though BCBS customer service SUCKS PIG BUTT, we are stuck using them because of husband's benefits package. It took FOURTEEN MONTHS of my constant phone reminders for them to get three initially small problems solved. In the meantime, a collection agency flagged my credit reports.

I apologize for adding a specific rant to your comments thread. Once I get started, it's hard to stop myself. I am dying for you to name names. What in particular motivated your entry?

At 8:39 PM, Blogger Mary Louisa said...

Okay, kick me. It was the commercial what got you going. I only watch Sesame Street and Clifford these days, so I don't know the one.

At 8:52 PM, Blogger Carter said...

It's one of the Earthlink commercials. Don't even get me started on BCBS. I considered legal action against them very seriously, but finally decided it wouldn't be worth the trouble and expense.

At 9:19 PM, Blogger Jean said...

FYI. Earthlink outsources their support function to somewhere in India. This is neither good nor bad, but I got the distinct impression last time I called that the person I was talking to could only handle reading from a basic checklist and had no actual computer knowledge. Of course, this and the frequent challenges of understanding the accent can also be found with technical support based in the US. In days of old, I sensed technical support people actually had technical knowledge and experience. I have my doubts about Earthlink. They're most enamored of their CD installation that hijacks numerous programs in your system with their versions. Yes, their Anti-Spam is excellent.

I detest going to their Customer Support Website populated only with instructions to load their software CD when I know there are simple manual ways to accomplish the same task without them assuming I'm an idiot, and I could talk my husband through the process very easily if only they would make that information readily available on their site (it's there, but they aren't anxious for you to find it).

And changing companies is not the answer--many, many companies have outsourced their technical support overseas. In one case, a co-worker called his auto club for a flat tire in the high speed lane with limited shoulder space. Thinking he was talking to someone locally, he was trying to describe where he was. Unfortunately, he eventually found out the person was in, I believe, India and had no knowledge whatsoever of the DC Metro area, so she couldn't help him triangulate local help without the ever-important mileage marker information (which we all routinely memorize as we speed past just because we might need it over the next mile, don't we?). That story did have a happy ending, but it was a surprise for him where the call center was located.

Sorry, Carter, you got me going on this one.

(Disclaimer: I've had some truly wonderful customer service experiences, and I'm sorry to say I'm shocked when I encounter them. It should be the other way around--I should be shocked when I don't have a good customer service experience.)

At 9:45 PM, Blogger Carter said...

Jean, computer tech support is a whole rant unto itself. The outsourcing to India business is 2 or 3. That gets my knickers twisted so tight I can barely breathe. Maybe later. Let me just say that I feel your pain. Been there, done that, don't ever want to go back. :-)


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