Customer Service: Nothing So Useless?

March 30, 2012 by  Filed under: Management 

In recent years, I’ve observed a much needed trend toward better customer service and “Listening to the voice of the customer”. In general, I applaud this trend and support this goal. However, even a worthy objective does not prevent us from doing something stupid. Sometimes, an ideal, such as customer service, creates an environment where we do certain tasks very efficiently. But without the critical components, nothing could be so useless.

For example, I deal with a company that provides a service via web-based software. Currently, this company has a campaign to “Wow their customers”. They’re very adept at telling me that they are going to “Wow Me”.

In my opinion, their software is somewhat clunky. (That’s a technical term.) Recently, I was trying to do a task in their software interface and things did not go well. Based on what I saw on the screen, I expected certain things to show up and to be able to do the task that I had in mind. Alas, try as I might with different settings and filters, I could not get the results I wanted.

Remembering their customer service slogan, I sent an email to technical support describing what I saw and what I wanted to do. I received an email response within their response time window. But it was obvious that the representative had not understood my situation; he did not answer my question.

If at first you don’t succeed – try again. So I sent another email, describing the steps up to the problem area, my objective, what I expected to happen, and offered to send a screenshot. This time, the response actually came much closer to answering my question. He described a non-intuitive and roundabout way to accomplish what I wanted to do.

At this point, I was a little ticked off. Technically, I had an answer to my question on how to do what I wanted. But, why didn’t the software show me what I knew to be there. Their emails said they wanted to “Wow me”. So, another email. To his credit, this time he offered to actually talk with me. Wow, this might actually turn out to be customer service despite misspelling my name.

When I called in, he was not available; another support representative took my call. To their credit, I received the same answer. But no one wanted to take the time to actually understand the situation as I saw it. It became obvious that I was wasting my time.

“There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.” (Peter Drucker) In this case, the company met its goals of response time, and it gave consistent answers. They were, in their minds, very efficient. But did they “Wow” me? No!

Rather than efficiently telling me that they will “Wow” me. Why not actually listen. Setup the process so that the “Wow” is a real result rather than a marketing slogan.

There is a big difference between reading and actually doing. Alan Stratton has real experience managing and modeling cost systems in variety of companies and has consulted with many others on process, cost and profitability issues including Activity-Based Cost. Understanding cost and processes is critical to understanding profitability and to management decision making. Come to for more tips and useful information.

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