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Customer Service Horror Stories Show Big Change Needed

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Customer Service Horror Stories Show Big Change Needed

May 19, 2015
By Tara Seals
TMCnet Contributor

Customer service: A dying art?

Chances are most of our readers would answer with an unequivocal “yes.”

That’s because too many of us find customer service sorely lacking in everyday interactions, be it with servers at a restaurant, employees at a retail store, gate agents in airports or pretty much anyone on the other side of the phone line when calling into a traditional contact center.

After watching the Bulls vs. The Cavs in game 3 of the NBA playoffs at Outback Steakhouse—ordering plenty of food and drink along the way—one patron took to the Huffington Post (News - Alert) to sum up the endemic problem with an all-too-familiar-sounding anecdote.

After closing the bill with one bartender, the group’s other server at the bar came after them as they were leaving. “Hey! Are you guys gonna pay your bill?!" she said in the most accusatory way possible, according to Tiffany Sanders, a graduate from Goldman Sachs' 10,000 Small Businesses program. After showing proof that the bill was paid, the flustered bartender tried to explain that the bar area was “rowdy” and thus it was too difficult for her to do her job keeping track of tabs.

“A perfect way to end a long work week of teaching at a University, over the road hauling loads, and running a business! Not so fast,” Sanders wrote in a blog. “Encounters such as this one can easily be misconstrued, especially since the bartender was white and the customers were black. But one thing for certain, it illustrated how poor customer service can leave an aftertaste that will cause anyone to avoid patronizing at an establishment for years to come.”

Oh sure, all of the big names talk a big talk. Target (News - Alert)'s mission is "to make Target your preferred shopping destination in all channels by delivering outstanding value, continuous innovation and exceptional guest experiences."

McDonald's? It says that it is "a company seeking new ways to fulfill our brand promise of quality, service, cleanliness, and value."

At Olive Garden, "the end result is a dining experience that's casual, yet stylish, creating an atmosphere of openness, spontaneity and generosity."

But missions aren’t aligning with outcomes. A New Yorker article cited a survey of more than 300 big companies, 80 percent of which described

Image via Shutterstock

themselves as offering "superior customer service." Only 8 percent of actual consumers, however, agreed with that statement.

A local Louisiana TV station reported on another incident that encapsulates today’s customer service reality. One DeRidder resident, Amber Armstrong, was shopping at WalMart when her grandmother had an accident. She helped her and then returned to the store, only to find a customer service manager discussing the incident with other customers and employees.

After the family contacted WalMart's corporate offices in Bentonville, Ark., a WalMart representative asked for the grandmother’s hospital room number so flowers could be sent, and promised an official apology.

"Never got flowers. Never got a face-to-face apology from anyone from WalMart," Franklin said.

Unfortunately, over-the-phone customer service can be even worse. When customers reach out to the contact center to resolve a complex issue, they expect to be connected to an agent who can serve as a customer advocate - who has the context to know who they are, anticipate their needs, make them feel valued and resolve their issue on the first contact – no matter what channel they’ve chosen. But all too often this doesn’t happen.

One expose detailed by financial website detailed a dismal experience with an energy company, which kept a customer on the line for almost an hour by giving her the runaround. The problem was a system upgrade caused by the company that disrupted online billing for many customers, requiring an account reset. She was ultimately told that the website is “temperamental” and that she would have to wait three to five days for an email to fix the problem.

The issues all come down to managerial attitudes, plain and simple.

"If the people in the organization believe that serving the customer is a worthwhile thing, something they want to do, and management supports that, drives that, expects that of the people who work there, you'll probably end up with good customer service,” Mitchell Adrian, a professor of management at McNeese State University, told the station. “If management is only thinking about sales, well then you'll probably have a sales team that thinks about sales and not service.”

Businesses supported by contact centers have options to change the narrative however. To provide a customer experience that is truly best-in-class, you need to provide a consistent experience across channels and touchpoints, while taking customers’ preferences and history into account. There are platforms that help do this, like Aspect (News - Alert) Zipwire.

The service incorporates data on customer preferences and previous interactions, and after an interaction, feedback from the customer provides data to measure customer satisfaction and optimize processes. And, customizable and pre-built real-time analytics and reporting help improve first-contact resolution, maximize service-to-sales opportunities, monitor call quality and more.

It also offers a range of supervisory tools, like call recording, customizable interaction scoring, screen-sharing and screen-capture help supervisors provide feedback on agent performance.

“As consumer expectations rise, contact centers are faced with supporting an increasing number of interaction channels, easing access to information and embracing rapidly evolving technologies,” the company said. “Our pure cloud solution can be deployed rapidly; eliminating the need for complex on-site infrastructure. Aspect Zipwire also scales with your business and stays up-to-date, streamlining the process and lowering your overall costs, while increasing customer satisfaction and retention.”

Edited by Maurice Nagle

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