Customer Service

I was doing the trip to Sydney a short while ago, and as I do, I was listening to the local radio station on hold with Telstra trying to reach someone to resolve an issue with his internet connection.

From his description, sounds like it was a bad username or the modem was faulty, however, he clearly didn’t know exactly what was wrong, and claims to have waited 20 minutes on hold for Telstra, and then again another 20 minutes.

This was OK, I thought, because I’ve seen 30, 40 minutes, and when I was a customer of Netspace, I was on hold for 45 minutes each time (they really were just that annoying). But the radio presenter went on to say, he’ll call them live and if Telstra didn’t answer in 5 minutes, he’d end his contract with them.

Sure enough, many songs later, 15 minutes, the Rep answered, and he advised he would be cancelling the account. The rep, probably in Telstra’s new Malaysia centre, clearly didn’t care  about the loss of a customer, he was more likely happy he didn’t have another idiot on the line to assist.

That lead me thinking, what exactly makes for good customer service? Then I began to think about a previous job, where I thought we provided excellent customer service, and the feedback from customers seemed to back this up. What is different?
– Getting through to a person, not a machine – people hate that, of course, in larger business it’s understood it’s there to route calls, so people might tolerate it.
– Hold times, when they call, they don’t want to be kept waiting, they want their enquiry sorted, so they can get back to whatever it is they do best.
– First point resolution. Not everything can be resolved ‘on the spot’, some things are complex, but for the predominant amount of enquiries, a resolution should be put forward, and acted upon.
– Escalation. Where something can’t be fixed on the spot, adequate escalation processes need to exist, so those who can fix it, will.

And, then I thought about how the company I work for currently does things, they’ve improved drastically over the last year, yet each time we get more staff in, old and new staff seem to lose all concept of how to solve an issue.

The process could be totally torn down, and revamped with the emphasis on first point resolution, issues are taken care of as soon as possible, where something is better dealt with via email, it is, and where something is simple for a phone call, or an issue where phone is the only option, it is.

Complaints are averted, you get the customer at the lower part of their anger, and so they are relaxed, ready to accept any resolution put forward that is reasonable, and where you avert the costly complaints, you generally have a better experience to offer the customer.

This week, I’ve been really successful at resolving some issues that seemed like they were going to result in the worst case scenarios. The suppliers are very helpful (except one), and the customers are ending up happy with the outcomes.

The problem remains though, how do we get the issue from the first point of contact (i.e. a phone call), escalated correctly to the right people, and resolved? The process just doesn’t seem quiet there..

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