January 20, 2016
Call me naïve but when did we start rewarding bad customer behaviour who act like petulant little children?
As a parent I educate my kids that rewards are only given when they achieve something or behave well – and these rewards come in various forms (not necessarily buying them things). Yet I see a real disconnect between what I am teaching my kids and the way companies react to their customers and quite frankly it’s upsetting & setting a very bad example!
With the introduction of social media with sites like Facebook and Twitter, companies appear to be more interested in protecting their brand image rather than actually looking after their customers. It has been noted in many articles how disgruntled customers take to social media and bitch about their situation in order to gain a faster or better response over traditional communication methods – the more friends and followers you have the faster you get served. When did airing of our laundry become so public and one that is encouraged? In a way, I would describe this sort of activity as that of a parent capitulating to their badly behaved child who won’t stop screaming in public. In others words, are social media active customers more important that those that use more traditional channels or are they simply bullying companies into action? More importantly is this really acceptable?
Most people dislike conflict and I am no different. In all situations I look for the win-win for all parties but more recently I have felt that this is no longer the case and that companies do not really look after their existing customers unless you start screaming – and the louder you scream the more you get!
My first experience of this was whilst I lived in the Middle East. I had a problem with my mobile phone bill and went into a store to discuss my issue. I politely explained my situation and the Customer Service Officer (CSO) was disinterested at best. Whilst waiting for the CSO to investigate the particulars of my situation, I observed two seats away that a local was causing a scene by screaming & using vulgar language. I looked at him with disgust. After 10 mins with my CSO and getting nowhere I asked to speak to the Manager who again had no interest in solving my issue. So I literally asked him whether or not he really wanted me to behave like that other guy in order to get some results. He was laughing at me, so I did exactly that – I stood up, screamed at him and used hand gestures whilst the packed store looked on. In the end I got exactly the outcome I wanted but I felt awful, as if I had done something bad to get something good. Later I was told that it was a culture thing and when in Rome do as the Romans do.
But then last week I had another issue with a telephony company in Australia (what is it with this industry!?!) with whom I have been a customer for 22 years! A small issue with an old sim card turned into a much bigger and complex issue. I must say outright that my CSO was amazing – polite, courteous, patient, really wanted to help me and ended up project managing my issue over several days and calls. I was impressed and told him so. However, at one point the CSO started asking me to perform actions that I found unacceptable (such as having to purchase another sim card outright and then get a refund when they could have just sent it to me for free) and to provide my business details to update their system when in fact this had been updated some 5 years earlier.
As I work within the Contact Centre industry, I realised that it wasn’t my CSO that was providing the horrendous service but it was the incompetent systems he was using. They were recalling my account information from 10 years ago, which were not up-to-date and telling him that I needed to be forward to another department before he could solve my issue. The CSO wouldn’t have known that I work in his industry and had a better understanding of the situation than most customers and I explained to him that his company’s back-end systems are not my fault nor concern and should never be for any customer which he eventually acknowledged.
However, the resolution finally came when I was forced to do 2 things: 1) threatened to personally contact the EGM of Customer Experience whom I know through my work & 2) Informed him that I charge my clients $X per hour and that I was now going to charge his company for any further time he needed to engage me! Within 10 mins I received a call indicating that they had found a workaround and my problem should be solved within 24 hours.
I must admit that during those 10 mins, I did post something on social media about my situation and got a response immediately – more of an apology than a solution. But it upset me that the speed to reply to my post came faster than someone answering the phone! Again – where were the company’s priorities?
Last week’s experience has left me feeling rather despondent about the contact centre & service industry and their interactions with customers. We, customers, don’t want to have to kick and scream to get things done so please stop rewarding those that do and look after the ones that genuinely just want to be helped. And in order to provide your customers with the best experience possible you must 1) invest in systems that work and 2) empower your CSOs to project manage and solve issues regardless of how many back end systems or departments the issue covers !