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Top 10 Customer Service Frustrations

There was an article in Forbes not that recently, but within the last few weeks about “Call Center 2.0” and the most common call center frustrations. The article is interesting (and I’ll talk about it more later), but today I want to address the top 10 frustrations with possible solutions.

Here are the top 10 frustrations customers experience, according to Forbes:

  1. Waiting on hold too long.
  2. Repeating information to multiple representatives.
  3. Agents lack the necessary answers.
  4. Agents try to sell other products and services.
  5. Agents are inflexible about solving problems.
  6. Company is too slow in addressing concerns.
  7. Agents aren’t personable.
  8. Customized solutions aren’t available.
  9. Company’s computers are often down.
  10. Company asks for too much personal information.

I am quite happy with myself that I have actually provided solutions on how to avoid a lot of these problems. However, I will be covering them in a bit more detail over the next week. Not a ton of detail (otherwise it would take too long), but definitely more detail than Forbes provide and more detail than a two line explanation.

Let’s start from the top.

Frustration 1: Waiting on hold too long.
This is a classic frustration and one that is hard to avoid. Simple answer: hire more representatives to answer calls. Ultimately, that will make the service experience best for everyone, but maybe not for the shareholders who have to pay for all of those people.

I like the idea of using operators to do things like verify information, look up past problems, etc. They can do a lot of things and leave the complicated things for the actual representative (kind of like a nurse seeing you before a doctor at the doctor’s office or hospital). This is also costly, but a bit more efficient than just hiring additional representatives.

You can train representatives and give them the tools to do things faster. For example, ensure all systems that have to use (computers, databases, etc.) are fast, make procedures relatively simple (getting things like personal information down quickly), etc. This will speed up the call times.

However, don’t ask representatives to rush the call. They should confirm before hanging up: “Do you have any other questions that I can help answer?” or something of that nature. Representatives should take their time and explain everything fully.

Frustration 2: Repeating information to multiple representatives.
I have actually talked about a solution to this, but I can’t find it at the moment. Putting my lack of memory/disorganization behind, customers should never have to repeat information to multiple representatives. How hard is it for a representative to log something in the person’s account or ticket so the information doesn’t have to be repeated? In most cases, not that hard.

The only things customers should have to repeat are things like a ticket or reference number, their name, and maybe one security question. The customer should never explain to the problem again, go through the same troubleshooting steps, etc. – this is a waste of everyone’s time and costly for the company.

Tomorrow’s post will cover issues 3 and 4, and maybe 5. I hope everyone had a good Monday! They can be tough and as I found out today, a certain company’s busiest day. The weird thing is, so is Wednesday (the last time I called) and Friday (another day I had called on). More about that another time.

On the topic of thanks.

Since I posted about the importance of thanking customers yesterday, I thought I would thank some people today.

The readers.
The readers are extremely important to Service Untitled and I thank all of you for reading Service Untitled and perhaps even suggesting to your friends that they read it as well.

The customer service type people who help out.
The customer service blog sector seems to be a pretty close bunch and I’m glad I have had the opportunity to work with and communicate with such a great group of people. Maria at CustomersAreAlways, who has featured lots of my posts and been a big help; Tom at QAQNA, who featured my blog in its very early days; Glenn at Customer Service Experience, who convinced me to enable comments (it was good advice);as well as Meikah at CS – The New Competitive Edge, who has also featured quite a few of my posts.

The non-customer service people who also help out.
There are a lot of non-customer service people who have helped out Service Untitled as well. Among them: Guy Kawasaki, who featured one of my first posts and helped refer some of my earliest readers; Ben of a few sites (one of them is whereisbasil.com), who has helped promote some of my posts and provided me with a lot of good advice; Brian of Copyblogger, who helped write a great title for one of my posts; Liz of Successful Blog who has also helped answer a lot of my quesitons and provided me some good advice (and for hosting Open Mic Night!); and so many more people.

Everyone else.
There are other people who have helped Service Untitled out by linking to it, using it for their classes, arranging interviews (yes – I’m thinking the media relations people), agreeing to let me interview them, suggested topics, written guest posts, and more, and I’d also like to thank them. I’ve only been blogging since April (not even 6 months yet!) and have enjoyed the whole experience thoroughly. I intend to keep doing it for quite a while and I look forward to meeting and working with even more great people.

I will also be updating my blogroll page soon to include some of these great blogs that I haven’t already linked to.

Thank you again and I’ll be back tomorrow with a post about the top 10 frustrations in customer service.

A simple thank you is a big deal.

I called a certain company’s customer service department the other day and I noticed something that pleasantly surprised me: I was thanked. I was thanked on several separate occasions for things like verifying my identity, my patience, my call, my business, and a few other similar things/actions.

A thank you can do amazing things for your customer service. Even the simple  word “thanks” will definitely help make the customer service experience better and more enjoyable for the customer. Customers like to feel appreciated and thanking them is a great way to do it.

Thank your customer often.
When the customer does anything that they don’t volunteer to do is a good rule of thumb for when to thank them. For example, you ask for verification and thank them once they provided it. This rule can be dissolve as you get further into the call and are doing things like troubleshooting (if a tech support representative thanked me every time I clicked something or restarted my computer, it would drive me crazy).

Things like thanking customers for account verification, thanking them for patience, for calling, for their business, for referring other customers, etc. are fine and encouraged.

Be sincere.
If you or any representatives just brush off the thank you as another thing that comes up on the prompt, it’ll be wasting everyone’s time and actually hurt the customer service experience. Make sure your thank you’s are sincere or don’t give them.

Vary it slightly.
If you have already said, “thanks” or “thank you” a thousand times, you can vary it a bit as well. Say something like “Thank you, I appreciate that.” It still has thank you in it, but it is slightly different. If the customer senses you are just saying thanks or thank you because it is on the prompt, it won’t help the customer service experience at all.

No robots!
If the customer verifies his phone number, don’t spit back “Thank you for providing your telephone number for our security verification.” Nothing screams script (or outsourced) more than that. Even “Thank you for verifying that information” may be pushing it a little bit. Something like “Thank you, I’m verifying your account now. I appreciate your patience.” That screams great customer service.

Thank lots of people.
Don’t limit your thanks to just customers. Thank employees, partners, distributors, supervisors, management members, stockholders, and whoever else you can think. It rarely hurts (as long as you are sincere) and everyone likes to be appreciated. Be sure to make the thank you personal (Dear Writers at –Magazine-: Thank you for all of your hard work at making –Magazine- great. Your research, writing, and wit has been us one of the best and we couldn’t have done it without you.) or you will defeat the purpose.

Short post today, but one about an important topic. Thanking customers, partners, employees, and whoever else you deal with is critical to creating and/or maintaining good relationships with them.

Have a great weekend and thank you for reading Service Untitled.

Make a connection with customers.

Lots of people who write about customer service talk about how important it is to make a connection with the customer. However, the importance of a mutual connection isn’t limited to just a customer and a customer service representative. It applies in relationships, branding, networking, and so much more.

So, how do you make a connection? Good question! I’m not a connection expert, but I am fairly good at finding things to talk about with people (aka small talk), which is the first step to making a connection of some sort.

Find something in common.
Do a quick Google search of the person before you meet them or talk to them. Search for their name on LinkedIn or MySpace and see if you have anything in common, know the same people, or whatever. It’ll provide an excellent starting ground. As a customer service representative, you may not know the person well enough. Check quickly at prior tickets or service calls – chances are they mentioned that their wedding was next week and they couldn’t come in, their kids got sick, or whatever.

Ask a simple follow-up question like “How is your daughter feeling? I saw you mention in your ticket a few weeks ago that she was sick.” That provides an excellent starting point and allows the customer to talk about something.

On the flip side, though, it may not be smart to ask about some questions. Very few customer service representatives will ask how you are doing because chances are the customer will say he or she isn’t doing well because they are having a problem. I don’t think I’d ask “How is your daughter feeling?” because she may not be doing so well. However, it is a matter of at-the-time judgment whether or not to ask a question about a particular subject.

Or talk about something general.
Ask about the weather, ask if the customer he or she has a pet, ask what type of computer they have. Do something while the customer is waiting for something to load that will take. Talk about other products that may fit them or they may be interested in (make it an honest suggestion, not a sales pitch, those the line between the two is thin).

Follow-up on a problem.
Another thing you can do to make sort of a connection and at least make the customer service experience more personal while you are waiting is to follow up on a previous problem. Say something like “Mr. Jones, I saw you emailed us a few weeks ago because your computer’s monitor was flashing. Is that problem resolved now?” If they say “As a matter a fact, it doesn’t really work how I’d like it to.” then you should try and fix the problem or put them in touch with the right person.

Remind customers of renewals and be able to help.
Remind customers if they have something due to renew soon, if their credit card is about to expire, etc. You have them on the phone and you should try and make the experience personal. Be sure you are able to help or you will just frustrate the customer. Imagine this:

CSR: Mr. Jones, your subscription for your service with us expires in two months.
Mr. Jones: Yeah, I forgot about that. Can I renew it with you now?
CSR: Yes, but I will have to transfer you over to billing.
Mr. Jones: Nevermind. I don’t want to do that.
Empowering employees is extremely important in customer service, so make sure they are able to and have the tools to do what you are asking them to. Making a connection is not always possible, but there is always something to talk about to make the call productive and make it so ultimately, the customer doesn’t have to call back.

A sidenote.
As a customer service representative trying to make a connection, you likely have to be good at multi-tasking. Most times customer service representatives have something else to do while waiting for something to load or re-install like adding notes, etc. Most good customer service representatives are good multi-taskers, but trying to make and then having a conversation while doing something else that can be complicated is tough.

There is a lot to learn in a customer’s history with your company. Subsequently, there is plenty to talk about, so make the time you have with them on the phone count and make conversation, and try to make a connection.

Paul English – Part 3 of 3

Here is the third and final part of the interview with Paul English, founder and co-founder (respectively) of GetHuman.com and Kayak.com. In this part, he talks about why companies should concentrate on customer service, what small companies can do to ensure great customer service, and more. To read this part of the interview, just click on the more link.

Part 1 of his interview can be found here and Part 2 can be found here. I appreciate Paul taking the time to talk to me and provide his thoughts. Service untitled will certainly be talking more about him, GetHuman, and the GetHuman 500 in the future.

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Paul English Interview – Part 2 of 3

This post continues the interview with Paul English, founder of GetHuman.com as well as CTO and co-founder of Kayak.com. Part one can be found here and we’ll finish it up tomorrow.

This part of the interview covers some interesting topics such as the upcoming GetHuman 500, customer service at software and other technology companies, why small companies have advantages over big companies when it comes to customer service, and an interesting way to look at Dell’s customer service problems.

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Paul English Interview – Part 1 of 3

Paul English is the founder of GetHuman.com, which is a huge site that lists the best ways to literally get to humans at some of the biggest companies and organizations consumers have to call. Paul is also the co-founder and CTO of Kayak.com, which is an interesting travel site that searches hundreds of travel sites to get users the best prices and flights.

This interview was quite long (which isn’t a bad thing), so I’m splitting it up into three separate posts. The first part of the interview is after the “more” link.

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The GetHuman 500 coming soon (the scoop)

Service Untitled got the scoop about an upcoming initiative by GetHuman called the GetHuman 500 from Paul English, who is the founder of GetHuman as well as the CTO and co-founder of the travel site Kayak.com.

During an interview with Service Untitled (which will be posted sometime early next week), Paul said:

Service Untitled: Do you think more companies will meet such standards as time goes on and they start to be more aware of customer service?

Paul English:
I do and I think one of the things we are going to be doing (I haven’t really talked about this yet, so I’ll give you the scoop on it): the next initiative we are going to do at GetHuman is once a year, we are going to publish the GetHuman 500, which is each of the 500 most commonly called companies by consumers, as defined by us and we have a number of research that we used to come up with that list, and then say, for the next year, these are the companies we are going to target.

We have a woman who works for me and runs most of the GetHuman initiative. Her name is Lorna Rankin and Lorna has contractors who work for her and who help us test and evaluate these companies.

One of the things, we’ll be doing soon, is finalizing the GetHuman standards. Right now the GetHuman standards are sort of public drafts for review, but within 30 days, we’ll have them v1 and once we have them v1, Lorna’s team will call each of those 500 companies and evaluate them on those criteria and rate them. Dell may be a 2 out of 10, Land’s End might be an 8 out of 10, and we will publish the ratings to consumers to say: “We are the GetHuman team and we are the advocates and the champions for this. Based on everything we learned, these are the five things that consumers demand, and this is how the 500 companies stack up with what consumers demand” and I think this is going to be a big deal.

He said this was the first time he can recall that he spoke to a member of the media about the GetHuman 500. It should be interested to see what companies are on it, and how they rank. Look for Paul’s interview on Service Untitled soon. He talks about a lot of interesting things from a very unique policy regarding customer service that he has used at his company to how come Dell’s customer service is so terrible.

Update: This post is now on reddit and digg.

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