If I think back to all the conversations about customer service I have had with friends, relatives and customers in the last five years – mostly about complaints, of course – the one category that one could group most of them under is a failure of process in the organisation involved.
Ever since quality programmes were the rage in the 1980s and 90s many organisations have had an obsession with process – mapping, procedures, systems and the like. However, most make the big mistake of trying to “improve” their process from the inside out, implementing and changing things whilst not considering either the whole process from start to finish, or, more importantly, ignoring the views and practices of customers.
Here’s an example
A senior manager in a large organisation has direct internal access to anyone in that organisation, so if something needs doing, the process is easy. However, if a member of the public (a customer!) tries to get the same thing done they must do so via a website that goes in loops, drops out on you, or worse, takes all your extensive details that have had to be typed in and then says that they can’t help: a regular occurrence for things like insurance and credit card applications. Why weren’t those killer questions asked first?!
Or, when ringing an organisation, having navigated the ridiculous automatic telephone system with 4 options, then 6 options then 4 again, none of which apply to the query, one gets through to a person whose scripted answers and limited ability to help are set by “company policy”.
It doesn’t have to be this way!
Firstly, those bosses could be forced to use the same system as the customer to get something done: I bet it would improve rapidly then.
Next, constant listening to calls and using speech recognition systems would highlight bottlenecks, areas of specifically concentrated aggro, and process improvement opportunities.
Agents know about the process problems
The staff in the contact centres will always know when there is a process problem long before anyone else, as they have to suffer the wrath of the customer time and time again over the same thing. Giving more empowerment, having regular listening sessions and internal focus groups, seconding front-line staff onto project teams and the like will all improve the processes in the right way.
And the same goes for new kit. Involving front-line people right from the start, instead of just the IT department, can turn a poorly performing CRM system into a really valuable tool – for no extra cost.
In the last six months I have encountered a motor insurance company where the link to DVLA for the agent when I phoned took several minutes to connect whereas when I got the quote online the connection was instant – why aren’t they using the same link in the contact centre?
I’ve just had a utility company refuse to let me do something for my account over the phone that I discovered I could do easily online. Why?
I’ve had a bank ask me to type in my account number on the phone and then at the first encounter with a human being they ask me my account number. Why?
And so on.
These things are just dumb
These are just dumb, and, believe me, I’m not a difficult customer, honest, just one who writes these things down for a living to try to get organisations to listen and improve.
The “crime” is not to make the mistake. The crime is to make it over and over again, and not know you are doing it (or, worse, know and not care!).
Hope it’s not you I’m talking about, but there is a lot of it about.
Paul Cooper is a Director at Customer Plus