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Service Essentials

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Service Matters

By: Melissa Siemers

Blog 3 in series: Our Customer Service Stories and the Lessons that they Teach

What defines great customer service? To reach the upper echelon of “great” customer service, organizations must exceed expectations at every contact point. A fete which seems unattainable from the perspective of the customer.

As a customer, we tend to focus on the bad customer service – it becomes ingrained in our minds and we share this with family and friends. A recent experience I had which resulted in poor customer service was with a major cell phone carrier. I contacted the customer service department to discuss some issues on our monthly bill. After 30 minutes of reviewing the account with the CSR, I was transferred to a different department. When the next CSR answered, it was clear that the call was a blind transfer. I had to explain the complicated situation again. After an eternity on hold, they credited my account and assured this would not happen again.

Except it did. Every month for the next 5 months. Each time I called, I spoke with a different CSR and had to explain details over and over again. In month six of making these calls, I finally spoke with a manager who offered to research our perpetual billing challenge. She was able to get to the root of the issue but needed me to speak with another department to make the changes. During that transfer, the call was disconnected and no one ever called back.

Every month it took an hour of my time to get the improper charge credited to our account.  To say I was frustrated, would have been the understatement of the decade.  Especially since the problem was never actually fixed.

In month seven I called again – breezing through the menu prompts in seconds to reach a CSR.  After repeating the issue AGAIN, I was transferred to a manager. I got good news: the manager knew what was wrong with our bill.  Then I got bad news: this issue could not be fixed. Could. Not. Be. Fixed. No resolution was possible.

During this experience, I witnessed a plethora of bad customer service behaviors: blind transfer of a call; not listening to the actual problem at hand; inconsistent service at each contact point; lack of follow up; and on and on and on goes the list.

On the flip side, I have had hundreds of good customer service experiences. But I have a harder time recalling those. It’s the great experiences that I find easier to recall. I recently had a great customer service experience with a large health care provider.

I dreaded calling the customer service line to discuss a deductible roll-over issue and was bracing myself for the worst. The customer service rep who answered the phone, however, was exceptional. Why? Because she exceeded my expectations (which doesn’t happen often since I work in customer service).

She listened intently to my situation, researched the information and was able to give me an informed decision. Then she took it a step further. There would be some lag time for the claims department to actually process the change and she did not want me to feel that the issue would go unresolved. So, she took down my name and number, explained exactly what the next steps would be, and advised when she would follow up.

I had my doubts.  Sure, she was great on the phone – expressed empathy, asked the right questions, used problem solving skills to address the issue, gave me clear and concise details on next steps.  But, once I hung up the phone I would be just another caller and lost in the mix.

To my surprise, she called me back on the exact day she said she would. There was no resolution yet, but she understood the importance of follow up, even if it was just to let me know that she was still working on the problem. That was all I wanted. She called again a week later to finally confirm that my deductible had been carried over to the next year. I was delighted.

Though my customer service experiences have different outcomes, many of the elements were the same.  Every call with a CSR involves a series of small decisions in a short period of time.  In my opinion, it’s the training of the individual on the other end of the line that makes the experience great.

“Make every interaction count, even the small ones. They are all relevant.”  -Shep Hyken