Archive for June, 2012

What is Good Customer Service?

Through out my life I have worked a wide variety of jobs, but none strike me more then when I have worked a customer service position.  I worked at one place that prided itself on quality customer service.  One would assume that quality customer service would mean that we the consumer/customer would come first and that at the end of that call that the customer would feel like what ever the issue it was resolved.  However what the company may consider quality would shock us.  In this article I will highlight how over the years I have worked in customer service how it has changed.

When I first worked in a customer service call center I had little, if any, training.  The company was a heating and cooling company and they just had me sit with a few people and listen to their calls.  This approach worked well, I was able to pick up the essence of the job and what the company was trying to do.  It was a smaller company, but they wanted their customer service people to have a personal touch with the customer, this the customer appreciated a lot.  The customer felt they knew the customer service representative and knew when they called in they would get some one who would treat them with respect. The company did not monitor the calls, nor did the company grade the representative.  The goal was to have a happy customer, quality was measured by that customer not calling back about the same issue.  Needless to say there were very few call backs, except for those who had credit issues.  When new upper management came in and wanted scripted openings and closings with branding the customers complained and were unhappy with the new corporate style of customer service.  The company has since lost a large number of customers.

Now there would be another company I would work for, a large utility company.  When I started there I had 3 straight months of training which took place in a class of other newly hired customer service representatives.  We would be given Powerpoints and other work in a classroom.  If we were lucky one of the trainers would take a couple calls.  In the first month the trainer took a total of six calls for use to hear, with the call on the sound system and the computer put on the overhead project for use to see what the trainer was doing on the computer.  The projector was barely in focus and it was hard to hear the caller and what the trainer was saying.  Then they had us pair up and take calls for a total an hour in the classroom.  After that without any more prep at the end of the first month of training they had us take customer calls on our own.  It is important to keep in mind that the training was a rushed and very little effort was made to see if the class fully understood what to do.  They did test us, but multiple choice test is easy to pass.  This companies idea of quality was much different than the first company.  It was not so much is the customer was happy, it was more of if certain things were said.  The call would be monitored and scored on what was said.  The call could go bad, but if the representative said “Thank you for calling Company X” they call was considered to be a quality call.  If the representative repeated what the customer said often that was considered quality, also it was important to ask the customer a series of “verifying” questions to make sure they were who they say the are.  This questions including asking for the address, name, phone number and last four of the social security number.  One would think just asking for the last four of the social security number would be enough.  Needless to say the customer would become frustrated during these questions, not a one that I had was in a good mood after all those questions.  Then after business was conducted and the customer wanted to get off the phone we had to repeat everything that was done, noting it on the account while the customer was on the phone, then thank the customer for calling the company.  By time I got to “Thank you for” I was hung up on.  But if the attempt was not made to say “Thank you for calling Company X” the call was considered a epic failure.  The customer could get off the phone with the sense that nothing was done, but if the representative branded the call with the company name the call was of the highest quality.  The company would record all the calls and have the representative listen to a few each month and point out the lack of branding and would encourage more branding in the call.  Keep in mind this company had a monopoly in the state it was in.  As long as the representative noted the account and send the branding the call was a success.

Why do companies decide what the customer considers to be good customer service and why is the customer now secondary in the scheme of things?  These are two questions that will require research to answer.