I’m always fascinated as a consumer when I experience both the positive and the negative sides of Customer Service. As someone who teaches Customer Service Skills, my experiences fuel me with many examples to share.
Recently I had decided to try VoIP service for a business line. I read reviews and determined which service was best for me. As an Amazon Prime member, I was able to order the equipment from my selected vendor for a two-day delivery without additional fees. I was eager to get the unit in place so I ordered through Amazon and received the unit promptly.
The package from the VoIP vendor promised a 15-minute setup. I had difficulty and called Tech Support. After a long effort at troubleshooting the issue, they diagnosed the problem as being due to a defective wireless adapter. As a result, I was sent a replacement which arrived about a week later (if I wanted it sooner, I would have had to pay a $50 premium shipping fee.) When the unit still would not activate, I called back and this time I was told that the problem was a defective Ethernet cable. I replaced the Ethernet cable and it still did not work. Next they had me look at the lights on the back of the unit itself and when they couldn’t understand why certain ones were on and others were off, they said I should talk to a higher level of technician.
After repeating every step that had been tested already to the supposedly more skilled technician, this person realized that I had a different model than they had thought! He told me that they no longer sold this model themselves, the unit was out of the warranty and I must return it to Amazon – but that they’d be happy to replace it with the current model. At that point I told them I wanted to cancel because I was exhausted by the time investment and skeptical that a new model would work correctly. During this experience, I spoke to five different Customer Service Representatives over the course of what totaled about 3 hours of telephone troubleshooting time.
I went online to Amazon and was able to ship back the product to them (with pre-paid shipment as the product was defective) and they processed full credit within 48 hours of receiving the unit. I never had to speak to anyone; it was efficiently handled without any intervention on my part.
Can you guess who I will recommend as a vendor and who I will not? Even though there should be safeguards that Amazon doesn’t sell out-of-warranty items, they made the return process painless.
There are 4 things this recent experience highlights:
- The goal of all transactions should be that the customer never has an issue. Ideally, a high quality product or service is delivered on time and without any problems arising. Too often companies build huge customer service teams without fixing the underlying reasons that cause customers to call. (Isn’t it amazing that it wasn’t until I was with the fifth representative that they realized I had a different model than they assumed?)
- If a customer has to contact the seller, issues should be handled by professionals who are polite and empathetic. On the positive side, I can tell you that all of the employees of this VoIP vendor were patient, polite and professional. However…
- Good telephone etiquette must be coupled with skilled problem diagnosis and resolution. Representatives need to be able to be skilled at probing in order to fully understand the problem and not be addicted to an ineffective service checklist. Timelines for resolution need to be efficient. Had I not had another phone alternative, I would have been in deep trouble.
- Customer Service Representatives also need to be able to provide clear and relevant information… and follow through to ensure all aspects of the situation are addressed. A month after my product cancellation, I received an invoice from the VoIP vendor for monthly services – for a phone number that was never activated. When I called yet again, the very polite representative could easily see that the service was cancelled. It took a few minutes for him to grasp that someone needed to credit out the erroneous charges.
Professionalism on the part of Customer Service Representatives is critical. But by itself, it doesn’t make up for a bad product or situation. It doesn’t make up for not knowing how to efficiently fix an issue.
When is the last time you examined your customer service process? If customer satisfaction and service is becoming an issue for you or your team, I’d love to help you in assessing where you are and options for setting a new course. Just email me and we can set up a time to discuss your circumstances and how I might be able to help you change things for the better.