Enterprise Wide Workflow and Visibility Critical for Customer Success
I am working on a white paper regarding the importance of cross-enterprise workflow and visibility, enabling the support organization to proactively manage customer issues that must be resolved by a group outside of support. Interestingly, I am dealing with a hellish customer service problem in my own life regarding this exact same problem, and let me tell you, the worst thing you can tell a frustrated customer is that the problem is “beyond my control” and there is “nothing I can do to fix it.” Whatever happened to support as customer ombudsman?
Customer support, in my mind, is the voice and face of the organization for customers. The majority of customer issues fall under the responsibility of the support organization, but unfortunately, not all do. In the chart below, I have a breakdown of incidents by issue type from the SSPA Benchmark database.
While the installation, how to, and bug/enhancement categories should be addressed fully by support, the non technical and ‘other’ issues are less clear. Problems with billing, account, shipping, etc., all may require intervention from a back office department to resolve. When this happens, what becomes of the customer? Who ‘owns’ the customer and their problem? I would argue that support should take responsibility and ownership of the issue, shepherding the problem through the proper processes, keeping the customer updated as progress is made.
In the last 2 days I have spent about 3 hours on the phone with 6-8 different people trying to resolve a problem with a service provider. It appears when I moved in early 2007, my new address was coded to my old phone number–and the phone number is the search key for the account. When I’ve called with account updates, including a new credit card, the updates were made to a ghost account under my new phone number. My service was stopped this week because the credit card in the old account is expired. Between language issues, agents who aren’t interested in problems that don’t fit their scripts, and an antiquated accounting system, resolving this has become a nightmare.
I think sometimes with all the pressure on technical training, some very basic customer service skills get lost. How does your organization handle issues when another department must provide the fix? Here are a few worst practices to avoid:
- Telling the customer they are wrong. Unfortunately, when it is up to an overworked agent to enter all the details into case notes, things get left out. “No, you weren’t told the service would restart today–it isn’t in the notes.” I cannot control what is typed into the case, so don’t tell me I’m wrong when the agent didn’t capture any of our previous conversation. Do you really want customers to start recording phone conversations and fighting about what was said or not said? Very slippery slope. Give the customer the benefit of the doubt.
- Calling a customer a deadbeat doesn’t build loyalty. At the start of every conversation with this service provider, the agent tells me the service was stopped because I didn’t pay my bill and my credit card was declined. And there is always a sneer in the voice when they say that. Actually, the credit card was not declined, it is expired, and I gave them another card to use months ago–they just didn’t update the account. Treating me like a deadbeat isn’t helping. Train agents, and create call scripts, to recognize there are many reasons for a credit card charge not to go through that have nothing to do with the value of the account (or the customer). And, any support representative who sneers at customers for any reason should find a new line of work.
- “My supervisor will call you back.” Having no escalation options is infuriating. The procedure at this call center is not to allow direct transfers to supervisors. Supervisors have to call you back, within 24 hours, and only at your home phone. It has been over 24 hours and no, no one has called me back. And the fact that there is actually a process in place to prevent customers from speaking to someone in authority in real time is absurd.
- Outdated accounting systems impact the customer experience. One of the problems I’m having is that the customer billing system information is only updated overnight. Any changes made to the account are invisible until the next day. If the agents don’t add notes on what updates they made to the account, no one knows they’ve done anything. I’ve put through 4 identical changes to my account in 24 hours because no one can tell they already entered the information. And telling me “Call back tomorrow and see what changed” is not helpful.
My problem remains unresolved, but at least writing about it is cathartic. And it certainly is giving me lots of ammo for my white paper! What is your most recent service nightmare, and what best/worst practices can you share from the experience? Please add a comment or shoot me an email–I will reply to all. And as always, thanks for reading!