As with many Bloggers and Tweeters, my posts are sometimes prompted by something that happens in my daily life. This week, I question whether or not all companies have really taken the customer perspective with their care centres or are just talking the talk of customer service. I conclude with my suggested 7Ps of customer service to help those who are still struggling with this change.
My recent experience that prompted this post concerns Cablecom, a local Swiss cable company, which is desperately trying to correct a long-term deficit in customer care versus their main competitor Swisscom. Swisscom has made customer service their MSP (main selling point or value proposition) and they are renowned for putting their customers first. Cablecom on the other h and had, until recently, been trying to win customers through aggressive price cutting, but that can only work for a certain time.
Back to the incident that prompted this post. After a few days of being ignored by Cablecom – my perception at least because my emails and phone calls were not being answered – I resorted to Twitter.
It has been a year or so since Twitter was first called the new call centre of today. Guy Clapperton, author of “This is Social Media” wrote an interesting post about this at the end of 2011 and interestingly this idea was questioned at the time. What a lot has changed in just a few months! I would argue it is much, much more than that. Today’s call centres are a frustrating, if sometimes necessary experience for customers to endure. In many cases call centres are automated, with an often long and complex self-selection process of button pushing to arrive at the department one needs. Usually the result of all that effort is just a recording that either states that the department needed is not open at the moment, or that the collaborators are currently busy and to please stay on the line. We are next subjected to music supposedly designed to calm our nerves, interspersed with messages suggesting alternatives to waiting on the line: going to the website to find a solution, to check their available FAQs or to complete a contact form, send an email. And then of course to add insult to injury, we hear the infamous message about our call being important to them.
Edison recently ran some research showing the patience that we have or rather don’t have today, on social media. Convince & Convert published some of the first results in an interesting article; it showed that companies must react immediately to customers using this means of communication. One in five expect an answer within 15 minutes and 42% within the hour. For reference when Guy Clapperton wrote his post in December 2011 the level was almost half that at just 25% within the hour!
Companies that have understood customers’ frustration with help line queues have found alternative solutions, such as arranging a call back, or providing sufficient staff to cover the busiest times, or at least to be available when the customer is most likely to need support.
Today there is no excuse for a CPG company to not be ready to help their users when they need it; for instance:
- Early morning or late at night for personal care products
- Breakfast, lunch and evening meal times for food manufacturers.
- Evenings and weekends for TV and technology products
Whilst in a few cases, there may be customers who use Twitter to jump the call centre queues, in most cases, it is a customer’s final call for help before “going under”.
Taking the customers perspective is the absolute right thing to do for a company, but should we as customers also take the perspective of the company we are reaching out to, or at least to the poor person who gets our wrath at the end of the email or telephone call?
Jimmy N. from UPC-Cablecom, was one of the very best examples of what a customer service advisor should be, that I have come across in all my years of working on both sides of contact centres. What did he do so well and what might we all learn from him, despite his relatively young age? I summarise it as the new 7 Ps of customer care.
- Private: He immediately took the conversation offline, asking for my email address and then calling me to speak in person.
- Patient: He let me talk first, just listening until I had finished ranting, or stopped to ask a question.
- Polite: He never lost his cool, even when I did!
- Perceptive: Empathised, knowing when to push forward with the next topic and when to go back to reiterate what had been agreed.
- Professional: He was an expert, knew his topic and more importantly knew how to explain its complex details in simple terms.
- Pragmatic: Worked with me to find solutions that worked for us both.
- Perseverant: He continued to ask and answer questions until he was sure I was happy with everything.
Are these the seven best qualities for call centre advisors, or are there more “Ps” to mention? Let me know, especially you Jimmy, if you read this.
If you need help in optimising your own care centres or customer connections then we would love to support your plans. We know we can help, just tell us where and when. Contact us here and check out our website: https://www.c3centricity.com/home/engage
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