Contact Center Hall of Shame
While many companies profess concern for their customers, at least according to their ads, and others are making substantial investments in their service organizations, there are still way too many that just don't care. To quote an old Clint Eastwood movie title, we have The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly in the world of service.
In the past, it was possible for poor service to go unnoticed for a period of time, not catching the attention of the news media and the marketplace until it became downright atrocious. In the beginning of this century, the "poster children" for extremely poor customer service were telecom providers, although their service has improved, despite the recently publicized "cramming" issues that have resulted in major fines and lawsuits. (Thank you, J.D. Power!)
Social media has altered the balance of market dynamics and empowered consumers to be heard. In today's business environment, all it takes is one really poor service experience to capture the attention of the market, although a company's reputation is truly harmed only after many incidents of bad service, as has been the much-publicized situation for Comcast and United Airlines. (Yes, I am aware that United recently received a top award for service—the people granting that award must not have been reading the blogs or flying their planes.)
To help companies understand what they shouldn't do, DMG Consulting has created the 2015 Hall of Shame for contact centers. This list is made up of 11 of the worst or most annoying customer service and contact center practices.
- Mysterious fees: hitting customers with fees that are unanticipated, not approved, unexplained, and not under their control. (This practice is referred to as "cramming," and when discovered by the Federal Trade Commission, results in major penalties and possibly lawsuits.)
- Surprise buys: companies that use fine print to hide subscription renewals or service upgrades that come as a nasty surprise when they show up on the consumer's credit card statement.
- Relentless up-sells: companies that push up-sells so hard that customers feel cornered and sometimes even threatened.
- A dead-end interactive voice response (IVR) system: forcing callers to use an automated system that prevents them from speaking to a live agent.
- Clueless agents: putting agents on the phone who are not properly trained or fully prepared with the information they need to do their jobs.
- Rude agents: hiring the wrong people, and not teaching them that behaving pleasantly is essential in a customer service role.
- Blaming the company: using "company policy" as an excuse to do nothing.
- Not listening to customers: agents who ignore what customers say and their requests, as they aggressively strive to achieve their performance goals.
- Using red tape to avoid helping customers: companies that make it so hard to get refunds or cancel accounts that the caller just gives up.
- Speed, not need: agents who rush callers off the phone.
- "50 Shades of Green": companies that wave the "green flag," professing a commitment to environmental awareness, yet clearly not really doing their part, as they continue to send out a massive amount of paper-based communications.
Providing an outstanding customer experience is no accident. The companies that are known and respected for delivering great customer journeys have cultures and leadership that are dedicated to their customers and invest on an ongoing basis in their people and infrastructures to support their visions. No doubt, delivering great service is an art, but it's one that can be taught and learned. Customer service really matters. Just ask your customers.
Donna Fluss (firstname.lastname@example.org) is founder and president of DMG Consulting, a provider of contact center and analytics research, marketing analysis, and consulting.
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