What is a positive customer experience? That is not a question you should have to ask. I challenge you to define the answer based on your personal experiences. As a service management professional, you can be the best and worst customer to serve. Your professional knowledge causes you to evaluate and react to customer experiences in your personal life differently. These experiences can occur multiple times a day and in different environments. This could be at the bank, in a restaurant, in a store, at a service station, in a doctor’s office, over the phone, or any other place you interact with people who are serving you.
Service management professionals appreciate when they receive great customer service. You are likely to acknowledge a positive customer service. You are also critical of poor service because you know they could do better. You might even challenge them to improve. But do you take the time to learn from these experiences? Let’s explore a couple of my customer experiences for potential lessons.
2:13 A.M., We Were Sleeping Until the Phone Rang
I recently received several phone calls over a few days from the 911 Emergency Response Center asking if everything was alright at my home. Each time, the dispatcher explained that they had received a 911 call from my home phone number, but the caller hung up. I assured the officer that everything was okay and that no one in the home had made such a call. After this occurred repeatedly, it was time to request an investigation by the phone company.
Simplify your automated attendant. When I called my service provider, I was greeted by an automated attendant. My provider offers phone, internet, and cable TV services. The first question is to determine service I am calling about. It’s a simple question to answer. I select phone. Then more questions followed along with integrated promotions to use their self-service options and purchase additional features. My customer experience began to decline as this was taking too much time. I tried the magic word “Agent.” The system responded, “I understand that you would like to talk to an agent. Please answer the following questions so that I can find the right agent for you.” But I don’t want to answer more questions. I want to speak with a human being. I repeat the magic word and discover I am in a loop and must answer more questions.
If your organization uses an automated attendant, then call it. Evaluate your service and adjust it to keep it simple and require the minimal amount of time. Give the customer an option out.
Integrate your systems and processes. To get to an agent, I had to identify myself to the automated attendant. I had to confirm the phone number I was calling about. Confirm my address. And then enter my account password. I get it, they want to route the call to the right agent and provide the agent with immediate information about the caller.
I finally got to the agent. After hearing the customary scripted greeting, she asks me for the phone number I am calling about, my address, and my passcode. I provide the information and then ask why she is asking for information I already provided. Her response was “We need to confirm the information you gave.”
Don’t ask customers to repeat information. If you collect information by an automated attendant, then pass that information to the agent.
Don’t ask customers to repeat information. If you collect information by an automated attendant, pass that information to the agent.
Listen actively and paraphrase what you heard. Now the agent knew who I was, and she could see my records, she asked “How can I help you?” Finally, I get to explain the issue, and I did. I also explain that I have reviewed the online call history for my home phone and the records do not show a 911 call being placed but do show each time the Emergency Response Center called me. Her paraphrase was “So you are having trouble calling 911.” I could not believe she was not actively listening to my explanation. After clarifying the issue, we moved on to investigating.
Own the issue, open a ticket, and escalate for assistance if necessary. The agent claimed she did not have access to my call history to investigate this. Since I was calling after 5 p.m., their billing office was closed. She asked that call back tomorrow and speak to someone in billing. “Excuse me. But why don’t you open a ticket and then have someone call me back?” She responded, “I guess I could do that. But it would be easier for you to call back.” I instructed her to open a ticket and escalate it to her supervisor. She created the ticket and said someone would call me by 10 a.m. the next day.
Keep your commitments. The next day passed with no return call. Since I still needed the issue investigated and resolved, I called the provider back in the afternoon. I went through the same process to get to an agent.
Record information correctly. After explaining to the second agent that I had an open ticket, he was able to find it. Then he read the description to me to confirm it was the correct ticket. “Customer is having trouble calling 911.” I knew it was the right ticket, but it had the wrong description. Not only did the first agent not actively listen, she recorded the ticket with a bad description.
Conduct a warm transfer. The second agent decided to escalate the ticket to a more technical team. After explaining that he was transferring the call, I began to hear music on hold. I listened to the music for over 20 minutes and then the phone line dropped. I called back, went through the process again. Explained my need again and that the phone line dropped after 20 minutes. The third agent apologized for the dropped call and transferred the call. After my listening to music for 25 minutes, I hung up the call.
Respond to poor customer satisfaction survey ratings. When I received the customer satisfaction survey later that day, I was not kind. I gave ratings that reflected the poor customer experience. Then the service provider did something right. They called me to find out why I rated them so poorly. I was now speaking with the fourth agent. She took ownership for the issue and promised to investigate it. About 30 minutes later, she called back to say they needed to dispatch a technician to perform onsite diagnostics of my wiring. We agreed to a time for the technician to arrive. A confirmation of the appointment was sent to my cell phone.
Provide status updates. While the provider commits to a two-hour window, I was given a three-hour window of 7:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. That morning I was up early and ready for the technician to arrive. At 11:00 a.m., I was calling to find out why they have not arrived. The fifth agent advised me that the appointment was canceled. I asked why and why I was not informed. She explained that the dispatched technician could resolve the issue without coming to my home. And she apologized for my not receiving the update. Had I been updated when the appointment status changed, another poor customer experience would have been averted.
End of the Month, and My Vehicle Inspection Is Running Out
In my home state, all vehicles are subject to an annual safety inspection. Mine was due. I called the local dealer to schedule the inspection.
Send a customer a helpful reminder. After the customer service representative scheduled my appointment, I received an email reminder of the scheduled time, a summary of the work to be done, directions to their location, and options to cancel or reschedule the appointment. The dealer was keeping me informed and providing me easy options to adjust my service request.
Offer additional assistance. When I dropped off my vehicle, they asked if there was anything else they could do for me. I added an oil change as the oil was near its end of life. While the service representative was successfully upselling, they were also eliminating my need for a second appointment. When customers call your service desk, do you offer additional assistance after addressing their initial need?
Advise the customer when the issue is resolved. When the service was completed, I received a phone call advising me that my vehicle was ready and that they found no issues that needed to be addressed.
Wow the customer! When I picked up my vehicle, I learned that they rotated the tires for free as a part of the inspection and that they had washed my vehicle. I was not expecting either of these services. I complimented the service representative and gave them a great rating on their customer satisfaction survey. I know where I will be going for my future service needs. What can you do to exceed your customer’s expectations?
Learn from Your Personal Experiences
Don’t just judge the customer service you experience, learn from it. While the service you receive might not be from a technical support professional, it is possible to relate the customer experiences you have with your profession.
Delivering a positive customer experience is much more than simply fixing the problem. It depends on every interaction and action throughout the process. I have found that I can learn from my personal customer experiences to improve myself and the services I provide.
Rick Joslin has more than 30 years of information technology experience. He has led software development teams and technical support organizations and has provided consulting services to several organizations. Rick has more than 20 years of experience in knowledge management and is recognized internationally as an expert in KCS. Rick holds a BS in computer science and multiple certifications from HDI, the KCS Academy, and AXELOS. He served as HDI’s Executive Director of Certification and Training for 10 years and is currently a 2018 Featured Contributor for HDI. Connect with Rick on LinkedIn.