Thursday, 31 July 2014

Computer Says No

Robin and I were chatting at lunch about recent customer service experiences. Actually, neither of us had anything close to a customer service experience.

You could say just the opposite and both of our situations highlighted the fact that some organisations may talk a good talk, but the truth of it is, they don’t actually want to talk to you at all.  

They want you to do it (whatever ‘it’ may be) on-line.

I felt I was in a Kafka novel where nothing was as it appeared and the automated phone systems were designed to send me into despair (my husband was already in a frustrated rage so I decided to stay calm in the face of having to choose from the following 6 options, when all I wanted was a human voice to guide me). 

I figured if I pressed enough buttons and said gobbledygook when prompted to say what I wanted the computer at the other end might get fed up and put me through to a real human. Out of the 20 or so calls I made to sort out one small query, that strategy worked twice.

When I finally did speak to a person, my situation was sorted in two minutes. I could have saved all the hours of aggravation I spent if someone had been available to talk to me in the first place. My torturous experience was with a government agency that shall remain nameless, but I pity anyone who has to deal with them, especially anyone who isn’t computer literate or whose situation doesn’t fit in any of the tick boxes.

Robin’s call also directed him to do stuff on-line and as he carried on listening to his options in the hopes of speaking to someone, the automated voice piped up, “Thank you for your call; goodbye.” Click buzz. Brick wall, no options.

So now I’ve let off some steam – what’s the point? I could throw up my hands in surrender, but we at Impact Factory are fighters. We believe that people don’t deliberately want to give poor customer service (dare we say appalling customer service), it’s just that many companies are looking firstly at what’s best for themselves and secondly what’s best for the customer, no matter how much they say customers matter.

What I mean by this, is that it’s easier for organisations to convince themselves that having automated phone systems that direct people to websites is a good thing: everything you need to know is right there and accessible on-line. And on some levels that’s true; you can trawl around at your leisure, go to the FAQ (frequently asked questions) section and often what you need is relatively easily findable.

But what if your question isn’t included in FAQs? What if something out of the ordinary has happened? What if you just want to clarify something because you’re not really clear?

What if you aren’t normal?????

See, my theory is that these websites and automated phone systems are designed for the ‘norm’. The average. The general. The majority. And if you are any of those, you’ll probably get what you want.

But in my experience, most people who contact companies, agencies, government organisations, etc. aren’t normal. Something has happened that’s confused them, made them angry, made them bewildered. They are uncertain, unclear and need reassurance, a little hand-holding, calming down.

Human beings provide that; automated phone systems do not.

As I’m writing this, I have a perfect example of when it works happening right across the office.

Impact Factory’s automated booking system is supposed to send out joining instructions and directions when a delegate books a course. Someone just rang in to say he hadn’t received his joining instructions. Our lovely Natasha picked up the phone within one ring, heard the situation, reassured him and while he was on the phone, sent him what he needed and waited to make sure he received it.  

From someone who was anxious about what he was supposed to do, he now has an additional positive experience of Impact Factory based on our rectifying a mistake.

Here’s our plea: to all those companies out there that think they are being helpful, take a look at how easy it is for your customers to access a human being.  

And if it isn’t all that easy, what does that say about your brand?

By Jo Ellen Grzyb



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