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Tag: poor customer service

How Not To Do Automated Answering Services

I’ve written about call centres and automated answering services that do nothing more than irritate the customer. With the amount of time I spend and have spent on the phone, both personally and professionally, you would think that someone somewhere would have an answering service and call centre that didn’t have any elements of irritation.

I’m still looking for that organisation.  I’m wondering if it actually exists.

Too often ideas about simple, quick, customer focused service get hidden behind clouds of fog caused by “Strategy Boutique” style thinking about brands, sub brands, corporate cultures, organisational concepts driving change, cost savings, et cetera when what is really needed is less pretention and more real world thinking.

Here’s an example of a poor answering service.  This is a slight exaggeration (and I mean only a slight exaggeration) of a answering services I have experienced.

Too many people who plan, design and implement automated answering services and call centres seem to have forgotten that it is the customer to whom they are supposed to be providing a service.  One simple rule needs to be written large on a poster and nailed to the walls of every room in which these systems are designed and planned:

Keep it simple, stupid!

This isn’t rocket science and it shouldn’t be overcomplicated.  But as you may already know, so many of these answering services are.

Let’s create a fictitious scenario which will serve as an example.

You want to call a software company, Troutsoft.  A former colleague who you respect has spoken highly of their products and services and suggested that you could garner some brownie points by investigating a partnering arrangement with them.   The contact your former colleague had at Troutsoft got hit by a bouncer in a local cricket match the other day and is currently in hospital.  That rules out talking to him.   So you take a look at their website.  It doesn’t say too much and doesn’t have any kind of general contact e-mail address or web form. You do have the contact’s name but not his direct phone number.

Not wanting to judge a book by its cover or blow a potential improvement to your company’s products you pick up the phone and dial…

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BT And Customer Service

With my professional hat on, if I am faced with a request to make changes to any kind of service I will contact the customer personally and confirm their wishes. I will not try and read between the lines of their request and make a change which I think will better suit them. With my professional hat on I am the service provider, the solution provider. I am not the customer and I should not claim to know their needs. That is arrogance.

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Automated Answering System Failures

Not everyone likes to use a company’s website to deal with issues. Not everyone has internet access. Some people want to get their issue logged by a person. Some people need to actually talk to a person (as I did this morning). When a customer calls an organisation they don’t want to be bored senseless with waffle about that company’s website – they want to talk to someone!

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Royal Mail Fail

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.

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Call Centres And Customer Service

Having been on both sides of the fence as well as being in the back office where things are planned and implemented, I’m fairly well placed to talk about ways to improve Call Centres’ service to customers.

The work of Dr W Edwards Deming emphasises the concept of quality as being the real driving force behind excellent service, whether it’s in manufacturing or service provision. Too many organisations are driven by the idea of getting the most out of employees the quickest and for the cheapest price possible. Call centres (or contact centres or whatever other trendy names there are for such places) are an ideal example.

The majority of us will have had to deal with call centres at some point in our day to day affairs. Banks, credit card companies, local authorities, utilities, ISPs, and support lines are invariably users of the call centre concept. Now a sensibly planned, well implemented call centre which is manned by staff who aren’t slavishly bound to follow a script and who are allowed to use their brains and take ownership of issues seems to be a rare thing.

Let’s look at the actual process of dealing with a call centre.

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