Are Your Customers Up in the Air?
With the increased investment in call centre systems and application of artificial intelligence, organisations can swiftly route our enquiries and answer specific questions. That’s the theory, but the reality is that it leaves us feeling far from satisfied, like indigestion after a fast food meal or disappointing, big budget film that failed to live up to its hype. Why is that?
First let’s look at the specific examples that cause our blood pressure to rise.
E-mails from “no-reply” senders
These little suckers landing in our inbox are a terrific wind up. You receive an e-mail that sparks interest but you don’t want to click the link and spend hours filing in forms and sharing info. You’ve a genuine query you want to raise but… the e-mail has been sent by a one-way e-mail server only capable of giving not receiving. Any e-mail sent to this address simply bounces back to you.
Auto Answer, Option Rich Call Handling
A famous way of creating fury these multi layered telephone systems offer wide variations of numbered or spoken responses. Tremendous if you fit one of their categories, don’t have short term memory problems and speak home counties English. Not so good if you have a non-standard query, or you fail to remember option one when the call handling bot gets to option six, or you hail from Glasgow, Gloucester or Gwent.
“I’m sorry I didn’t understand that please try again”
The latest trend seeking to syphon customers away from front facing humans is the wonderful “Webchat”. Oh, how my heart skips a beat when a tweet of discontent is met with a direction to seek an answer via the all-knowing, fat fingers behind company webchat services. I’m sure the management meeting that authorised the use of such services had every good intention, but from a customer perspective they are ponderous, mind-numbing torture. You patiently await the next nugget of wisdom from your web-chatter as the screen says, “your adviser is typing” only to be asked for your security details, only the third time that session! I’ve discovered they often lack a sense of humour too, not appreciating the typing of “your customer is snoring/ fallen into a coma”
The fourth of my “usual suspects” diverting customers attention is the infamous auto renewal. You’ve signed up for anti-virus protection, design software, web hosting or a Cable TV package and as per tens of thousands of other customers, your busy lifestyle aids the business by rolling over your contract. At best, you quickly realise and end up paying a month more than you wanted, at worse the supplier points to the small print of the terms and conditions and imposes a swingeing release fee. At their most insidious, these methods create situations where monthly charges creep up and suggest you should serve a period of notice before ending the relationship.
Time to Switch Off the Auto-Pilot
Of course, these “innovations” in customer management offer benefits however it appears to me the larger the corporation the greater reliance falls upon auto-pilot communication. As far as I can determine auto-pilot just leave customers up in the air. Trying to sort out a mobile phone problem, billing issue with insurance company or technical fault with digital TV is not a straightforward exercise. No longer can we simply pick up a phone and expect to talk to a human being who has service at the forefront of their mind. More likely we’re part of the space time continuum caught up in “We’re experiencing a higher than usual volume of enquiries at this time…” My immediate thought when I hear this oft spouted excuse, is of those hundreds of fellow sufferers all hanging on the phone wishing for a time before tech and the opportunity to experience proper service when called upon.
My advice for business owners, customer service directors and marketers…keep it simple and keep it human. We are sociable creatures that require direct human interaction for reassurance and comfort. If you want to promote your organisation as the best in its particular field, it must start in the way it communicates to its customers, not as numbers, units, financial returns or demographics but living breathing people with unique and genuine needs.