Normally I write about generational issues each month; however, I had an interesting customer service experience this past week I simply had to share. No matter the job title or industry, we’re all in some sort of customer experience field. Every handshake, every business deal, and every conference call is an interaction which leaves an impression upon others regarding the level of service we provided them.
My wife and I recently moved into a new house because our children refuse to stop growing. So in the last three weeks I have had the pleasure of transferring all of our cable, electric, Internet, and other services to the new address – yay! If there was one thing all of us could use a little more of, it’s hold music. Would it kill them to play some Coldplay? Top 500? At this point I’d even take some old twangy country!! But I digress….
For one particular company (which I shall not name, but I’ll bet you can guess what it is), it’s been a less than stellar experience. When it comes to customer service I’m fairly laid back. I’ve worked in contact center management for years, so I understand how most operations run and I also know most people are trying to be helpful. Which is why I was perfectly patient for the first call, and the second, and third. By the fourth call I was starting to get a little annoyed, and after the fifth call I was officially frustrated. (Chalk that up to good old-fashioned Midwestern patience and politeness. We should really learn to be a little more New Yorky sometimes.)
By the end of five calls I was finally able to schedule an appointment for service to be installed, where I was given a 9 hour appointment window (really?). They showed up, and I waited at home while they spent 4 hours to install services which should have taken an hour. And guess what? It still isn’t working properly. So on my sixth call I shared my frustration (very respectfully) and asked for someone to come back out to the house to install services correctly. That’s when I was told they can’t find my account and I would need to call back when the correct department was open.
I am now filled with hate. But what can I do? Seventh call, here we come!
I called back the next day and spoke with Alea, and guess what? She completely blew me away. She was seriously incredible. After I hung up with her I thought about why she was so much more helpful than the previous six people I’d spoken to. In the end, it wasn’t a complicated list:
She listened intentionally:
Alea took the time to ask clarifying questions so she could get to root cause of my frustrations and problems – which is basically impossible if you’re not actively listening, reading between the lines, and asking follow-up questions when needed. The same can be said for listening to co-workers or in business meetings. Are you listening? Or are waiting until they stop talking so you can respond? The former wins out every time!
She was empathetic:
In my previous six calls, when I explained the situation and what I needed, the representative would invariably respond with something like, ”I certainly understand your situation Mr. Havens” or “I know how frustrating that can feel” or “I know I get frustrated when (fill in rest of phone script here).” As someone who’s managed a contact center, I know these are sentences that customer service representatives are told to say in order to build empathy. The problem, however, is in the application. When not customized to the situation or accompanied by a tone of voice which expresses empathy, they come off as very disingenuous. Alea didn’t offer me an “empathy statement,” but she was absolutely empathetic in her tone and response. What I learned from this experience was to make sure we aren’t over-complicating basic human nature. Gauging someone’s empathy shouldn’t be solely based on the words they say, but instead how the receiver feels about the interaction afterwards.
She challenged protocol:
The best part about the whole process with Alea was her follow-up. She knew my issue was going to take some fixing on her end, so she scheduled a call back within 2 hours. It was against protocol, she told me, but given my multiple calls she said she would go ahead and do it. And what do you know – it made all the difference! Within 1 hour Alea called me back with a solution. It’s a good reminder – if your protocols exist for business reasons only and don’t make a positive impact on the end user/customer, then you need to challenge why they exist in the first place.
How we interact with customers, co-workers, and business partners matters. In the end, I’m staying with this company not because of the service they provided, but because of the service Alea provided. Think about how you’re interacting every day and what your company’s customer service is saying about your brand, and it might just be the reason someone decides to buy or stay with you.
Now, if I could just do something about that ridiculous hold music…