Having already written about call centres and customer service you know that I’ve got some sensible ideas about how to provide a service which is better for customers.
This morning I had cause to contact Royal Mail about the redirection of mail I had set up. They are now redirecting mail intended for other people at my old address instead of the mail intended for just me. One letter was time critical and clearly not addressed to me. Being the decent chap I am, I contacted the company concerned and advised them that the letter had been wrongly forwarded to me.
The call was answered by an answering system. This in itself is not a problem. How the answering system is set up is the cause of many problems in call centres. This is part of what I wrote on Call Centres and Customer Service:
Two: the number dialled, the call is often answered by an answering system. This is where I have some professional experience, and have even been the voice answering the call! Planning out how calls should be answered and directed should follow one simple rule: KISS. Keep It Simple Stupid! Many companies do not and this further irritates the customer.
The simplest and best way for calls to be answered is a short greeting – “Hello, thank you for calling [company name].” followed by “ Please press 1 for [department name]” et cetera, ending with “Please press 0 or hold for the operator”. The menu options chosen may not apply to some callers. A caller might not be using a touch tone phone. I love antique phones and they are not touch tone. To route the call to an operator after a set time with no input is only polite. An answering system that goes “I’m sorry, we didn’t hear your choice” endlessly achieves nothing other than an annoyed customer.
Some companies use long greetings – “Welcome to [company name], part of the [company group]. Did you know you can access our website at double u double u double u dot company name dot com to access a full range of services?” before going to the available options.
Some companies bamboozle the customer with legalese announcements or data protection announcements – I’m talking about car insurance companies in particular here.
Keep It Simple Stupid means just that. Let the operative discuss those issues with the customer. By doing these things wrong, the customer isn’t being made to feel welcome and that they are receiving a quality service. They are just getting bored and irritated further. If they become confused by a War And Peace length greeting they will just press a button to try and speak to someone. Call goes to an operative in the wrong section, they have to put the caller on hold then forward them, thus making a confused customer even more irritated.
Some companies are large and so would need a few button presses to get to the right group of call handlers. That in itself isn’t a problem for one off calls. If a customer is often calling to chase up an issue (I speak from personal experience here) then surely it’s better for customer service if they are given a direct number to reach that group of call handlers.
Point of annoyance: Boring the customer with long menu options
Point of annoyance: Confusing the customer with long menu options and gobbledegook messages
Point of annoyance: Not giving the customer a direct number to reach call handlers in a complex menu set
Point of annoyance: Not having an operator option
Royal Mail fails on a few points here. Boring the caller senseless with long menu options. Even giving the automated answering service a name! It’s a computer program, not a person! Then before it gives you the menu options it starts telling the caller about the Royal Mail website. I don’t want to know about the website, I want to TALK TO SOMEBODY ABOUT YOUR FOUL UP!!!
There may be a thin line between sounding terse, sounding friendly and being boring and patronising. KISS means what it says – Keep It Simple Stupid! Simple does not mean verbose. It means simple.
Part way through the over long menu options again I’m told about the website. This isn’t a good way to keep the customer happy. It makes it sound as though a phone call is an unwelcome intrusion.
Then the real killer: “I’m sorry but I can’t connect you because all our operatives are helping other customers. Please call back later” and then cut off. No hold, no leave a message, nothing like that. Just “sod off”.
That is not competent service, good service, great service or excellent service. It’s abysmal service which completely fails the customer and leaves the customer feeling rather annoyed.