Some brands have a nasty habit of considering customer service as only a necessary evil. For such brands, it is a headache and cost center that is better outsourced whenever possible. Instead of shutting up and going away, in this internet-enabled world, customer service has spawned new channels, exposing organizations that are not customer centric. According to Twitter, from 2013 to 2015, there has been a 2.5x increase in the number of tweets to brands and their customer service usernames. If email, social media and chat help are wonderful new strings to the bow of customer service, they require tremendous coordination and different skills. Chats can be really great, but the way customer service reps work, they are typically manning multiple conversations. Timing, spelling and tone all weigh differently according to the channel and the customer’s expectations. And, if telephone conversations are wont to be “recorded for quality assurance purposes,” other customer service interactions can be retrieved and exposed for all to see. The result is that customer service has become a veritable part of the marketing mix and brand experience.
A case of customer service mismanagement
Below is the session log of a real conversation Alexandra recently saw. If you have a moment, take a read.
When consumers are interacting with a customer service representative, they are entitled to believe that:
- the individual on the other end of the line is a representative of the brand, regardless of whether he/she is outsourced;
- that the interaction is a legitimate part of the experience of the brand.
One of the “old school” elements to customer service is how long it takes to answer and to resolve the call. Obviously, in the case above,”Sorry about the wait,” they begin on wrong footing. This is, unfortunately, often the case.
Within the very first sentence, the agent refers to herself as Mina Today! Throughout, the agent uses teenager grammar, without any attempt at punctuation.
Lack of clarity
The comments and questions of the agent are unclear and lead to utter confusion. The expression, early on in the conversation, “yes it turned on,” is hopelessly wrong. Is it a question? What does it mean?
The agent suggests that an Apple computer is not a normal computer! The conversation has to go badly awry at this point. She also suggests that a laptop is not a computer. It may be a little technical, but what she meant was a desktop or laptop.
The agent threatens Alexandra with blocking her account, for a reason that has not been established. It turns out that the company has stopped supporting Apple products, information that had never been communicated previously. As a result, the method of payment used was no longer functioning; as if it were the fault of the customer?
As with many of these chat calls, the agent is likely managing multiple customers. The gap between each sentence is systematically 1-3 minutes. Keeping the flow and the nuance of the conversation with such long gaps is particularly hard, especially when the customer becomes disgruntled.
Customer Service is the new marketing and it goes viral, too
In the experience above, which lasted 41 minutes in total and was not resolved satisfactorily, the customer closes the account. Without doubt, the conversation could (should) have gone another way. The bad taste in the mouth is evident. And, according to the venom in the customer’s mind, the whole thing can get published and potentially get shared via social media. So, this is a perfect demonstration of how customer service is the new marketing, veritably.
The purpose of this post is not to run a stake through the offending company, nor to identify the customer service representative in question. It is to highlight the burgeoning importance of customer service in the product life-cycle and that, with the new forms of communication, come different needs and skills. Hopefully, this post can be a wake-up call for senior leaders who have not checked recently how their own customer service is being run.
Your thoughts and reactions are welcome.