We recently completed some work for the consumer complaint start-up Groubal.
When preparing a survey of customer satisfaction complaints on Twitter for their blog we were struck by how companies knowingly cause customer dissatisfaction through cost-savings in customer support, and how poor customer service has become almost expected. Many of us have come to accept the 30-45 minute wait and the outsourced, third-party service from people who are so far removed from the business that they can only answer pre-prepared, easily-identifiable issues.
Why is this? How can a telecommunications company get away with not addressing obvious dissatisfaction with customer service in the name of cost-savings, yet if they saved a similar amount of money by releasing a cell-phone whose 9 key began to falter after a month, there would be uproar?
It’s not like people don’t complain about customer service. As our survey data showed us, tens of thousands of people complain publically on Twitter every week about just this topic. And this matters. Google CEO Eric Schmidt, who knows a thing or two, believes that “the dominance of search will give way to recommendation technology” – i.e. digital recommendations will become more important than searching currently is. To repeat: online recommendations will likely become a more important system for finding and choosing services and products than searching. Customer support is not a cost: it is an investment.
With this in mind, we believe that it’s time for customer service to become an integral part of every business, not a necessary cost that should be minimized and marginalized.
These are the customer service policies that we’d like companies to adopt:
- We will not charge existing customers to get in touch with us.
- We will make customer support as easy and as accessible as possible, through publicized telephone numbers, email addresses, physical mail addresses, online support systems and social media channels.
- We will provide equal quality of support through all channels where possible.
- If a customer has to wait for more than 60 seconds to get through to us, we will offer to call them back as soon as possible.
- Our customer service representatives use our product/service and have proven in-depth knowledge of it.
- Our customer service representatives are given the necessary power to personally resolve most issues, including financial issues.
- We will not advertise products or services through our customer support channels.
- We will treat every customer with respect.
- Our telephone customer service representatives will speak clearly and will posses excellent communication skills.
- If we cannot resolve the issue immediately, it is our responsibility to keep the customer regularly informed about their issue
- We will frequently assess customer service technology and processes, and make the necessary investment to increase our efficiency.
- If our senior management are awarded bonuses, the figure will be partially linked to an audited measure of customer satisfaction.
- We recognize that customer support is an integral part of our product/service offering, and therefore if we do not meet the quality guidelines set out here, we have broken our contract with you and you may opt for a refund.
It’s time to reverse cost-savings on customer support, and for businesses to put their money where their mouth is.
What policies would you add?
P.S. If you’re angry about a product, service or customer service experience with a company, you really should add a groubal. The great thing about groubal is that they actually take up popular complaints and fight on your behalf for answers and corporate change, so your complaint isn’t just a public moan: it’s a stepping-stone to fixing the problem.