27 April, 2021
Almost all companies understand the centrality of support in customer satisfaction - because no matter what business, service or product we talk about, things do go wrong sometimes. If this were not the case, we wouldn’t be greeted appropriately on those calls where we request a telecom company’s customer representative to fix some issue with our internet connectivity. Or be reassured that our problem is understood, that the teams are working on it, and apologized for the inconvenience caused to us. These niceties/pleasantries and etiquette are critical mending relationships that are of value to us - but what communicates value, more than pleasantries in the long run - is for our inconvenience be truly cut short by getting the Fix for our problem immediately.
Consider that hectic 7 A.M. call that we frantically make to our telephone company through our half-finished breakfast, because we cannot connect to the home internet at the same speed that we left it after the Netflix show night before. You have a call with Europe starting in an hour. You are greeted, inquired about the issue, and reassured that the problem will be resolved soon. If you are lucky enough to subscribe to a provider with slightly better service, you would have even received an ETA. You suddenly remember the nice jingle and messaging around dedicated support team that had drawn you to switch.
In half hour, you receive another call where you are inquired about your Customer Account Number, or if you were luckier, your phone number and name. The greetings are missing, but your issue is patiently heard and understood - following which, you are given instructions for a routine exercise to reset your internet gateway and check the status on your app. The drill fails and the agent politely apologizes - and you are told that a technical team would contact you to resolve your problem. Its now getting to close to call for your 8 am and you didn’t quite fancy the Plan B if you had one.
Our experience with the quietest dishwasher when it starts creating noise is not widely different. Or when the icemaker stops making ice or the dryers stop drying.
Impact of greetings, empathy, articulation of ownership and best effort (all contact center best practices) flatline rather quickly as we keep waiting for what we wanted – The Fix.
Scripts that are designed to lexically pamper customers while buying the diagnostic teams some time to solve a problem that recurs, in a new way every single time, has reached its level of diminishing returns. One wonders whether this emphasis on conversation, dialog and engagement without the Fix is really worth the effort many teams are after.
May be its time to take some money away from ‘how to handle a call’ trainings to ‘get a fix’ instantly so that no one needs to call back.
Polite and empathetic agents backed by technology that can suggest how to fix first time right is need of the hour. This piece of technology should know ‘the speed sucks’, ‘why is it so slow’, ‘looks like its sleeping’ all mean the same thing so that agents need not declutter – technology can do it for her. Still better - give us a self serve option on the app and take us through the steps when we ask.
Just fix my speed and get me the ice and I can do without the polite nothings.