“Well actually, no, you can’t help, not if you can’t even be bothered to get up and talk to me!”, and with that she stormed out of the store.
At first, we were all a bit shocked and found her behaviour immensely rude. But after a few minutes it dawned on me that she wasn’t wrong!
I’d made the cardinal mistake of not putting the customer first. Unforgivably, I paid more attention to the laptop screen and not enough to the customer.
I didn’t make the customer feel important, or special and whilst that may wash with the multiple and network outlets, Fone Doctors won’t survive long as an Independent dealership if that is our approach to customers. Thankfully, it was a one-off, but it did raise an interesting issue.
Symbolic call centres
I recently read an article which showed how customers were fed up with holding on the phone when put through to call centres and being transferred to a different operator. That highlights a major issue of concern for people up and down the country. It’s an issue that affects the mobile phone industry, but also all other major industries.
Quite simply, as a country, we deliver appalling customer service.
I don’t know what it is, or when it got like this, but it’s a major issue now. And call centres are symbolic of the problem – from being endlessly placed on hold, to being transferred to an operator repeatedly, to waiting for ages to hear a human voice, to eventually hearing a voice, but not one that is able, or even willing to help you. That’s if you can understand them in the first place.
We’ve somehow managed to get things seriously wrong. Many will blame outsourced call centres, especially overseas in places like India. The argument is that as well as the language barrier, these overseas Customer Service Representatives (CSRs) don’t understand the culture of our country; and so when are given a question of the set script, they get totally lost.
For me, the problem is much deeper than that.
I recently got through to a T-Mobile call centre in the Philippines and was helped by Amie who was excellent to deal with – she was actually willing to help my customer who was having issues with his 3G data-card.
The reason my customer left p***ed off was not because she was based in the Philippines, but because T-Mobile as an organisation was not equipped to help the customer. Even when we got passed through to the Glasgow Technical Support centre, Evonne was the ideal voice of calm and co-operation. But it’s no good having excellent CSRs if they’re being forced to bat with one hand tied behind their back!
It’s not about difficult accents. Many would argue whether a Glasgow accent is easier to understand than an Indian accent. To be honest, it doesn’t matter if your call centre is in Manchester, Mumbai or Mars: if the company is not going to enable its CSRs to provide good service, they will have to deal with irate customers – the problem lies with company policy!
As I said, this applies to organisations up and down the country, and to all industries serving all parts of society- as a nation we no longer value our customers. They are just seen as cash cows to be milked for every last penny, with the cost for milking them to be as low as possible. Some of you hard-nosed capitalists may find this to be a normal business principle, but many more find this a plague of our society. For all the organisations that pay lip service to putting customers first, how many deliver satisfactory customer service?
We need to put our customers at the centre of how we structure our business. O2 recently publicised the fact that for Business Customers, CSRs could deal with the vast majority of queries without transferring the call. That’s great for business customers, but it should be the norm for all customers across the board.
At the end of the day, poor customer service is not just about call centres, its in-store as well and for too many companies, it’s institutional. When you let down a customer over and over again, sooner or later, something will give and it’s most likely to be that customer’s patience, and with it, their money, which will go to one of your competitors.
THIS MONTH’S TOP THREE DEALS
1 Nokia N80 on Orange Raccoon for £35pm, with 500 minutes, 250 landline minutes, and 200 SMS. Excellent revamped package from Orange, with great commission. £54 net profit before bonuses.
2 Vodafone TV 500 package. £35 pm for 500 mins and 100 SMS, plus Stop the Clock and Vodafone Passport. And free Sky Mobile TV for six months! £300 pre-phone commission on selected handsets.
3 Orange SPV M3100 on Orange Panther £45, with 800 minutes and 200 SMS. Excellent value, and my choice as the phone of 2006. £110 net profit before bonuses.
THIS MONTH’S TOP THREE GRIPES
1 The networks have admitted that they can’t match independents for customer service, which is why they are now all resorting to better deals when you go direct.
2 Lack of genuine consumer data options from all networks, with the exception of T-Mobile – c’mon guys, 2006 can still be the year of data if you all follow the lead of Web N Walk. Customers want unmetered access and they want VoIP!
3 Charles Dunstone comparing the launch of TalkTalk to Blair’s invasion of Iraq. TalkTalk is a top customer offer – the Iraq war is the greatest mistake of our generation.
Carphone Warehouse for its Top of the Class range in support of anti-bullying charities. Once again setting a
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