This is the next entry in our “Best of” series, in which we venture deep into the vault to replay blog opinion and insight that has withstood the test of time. Today’s post hails from November 2007. We welcome your feedback.
Canada’s national broadcaster, the CBC, is airing a special series on its national radio news programs called, “How may I help you?” I caught the first in-depth piece yesterday evening and I so badly wanted to call in and share my endless stack of customer service horror stories. Many fellow listeners obviously felt the same way; as of late this morning, fully 279 (!) individual stories of lament had been posted to CBC’s web site.
The issue put me in mind of an article, authored by Graham Technology’s Frank Kirwan, that we secured in Customer Management magazine earlier this year.
As I was listening to the radio piece last evening and reading some of the horror stories posted online this morning, the key point that kept coming back to me from Kirwan’s article was “Dissatisfaction is a greater driver of (customer) defection than satisfaction is of retention.” And judging from the number of CBC listeners who wrote that they would never again do business with that bank, telephone company, travel agency or whatever, clearly it takes just a single outrageous example of lousy customer service to trigger that defection.
It really doesn’t have to be that way.
Because we have been working with Graham Technology for about a year and a half now, and with other companies like PIKA Technologies and Vocantas whose products and services can help companies sharpen their customer service, we know that the effective deployment of the appropriate technology solution can dramatically improve what seems to be a near-universally dismal record. The irony is that technology implementations are often cited by customers as the most egregious part of the problem. (Bell Canada’s voice avatar Emily surely would be hung in effigy from city to city across Canada if she was anything more corporeal than the ultimate in service-preventing disembodied interactive voice response (IVR) systems!)
Just one example, if you’ll allow me to pimp my client a bit here. There is nothing more aggravating than the situation where you call a telephone company, navigate the IVR and enter your phone number — “Starting with the area code, please.” — followed by your postal code, and the month and year of your birthday, plus whatever else it demands of you, and try to get it to deal with your issue before bailing in desperation to a human operator who finally picks up and asks, “May I have your telephone number, starting with the area code, please?” Arrgh!
A very small part of Graham Technology’s rather comprehensive customer interaction platform, ciboodle, allows what is called “session integrity across channels.” That means that whatever information you provide on one channel — like the IVR that takes all that information from you at the beginning of the call and uses it to find your account information — is seamlessly conveyed to the next channel you choose to use, obviating the requirement for the human operator to ask you the same questions you’ve already answered for the machine. Every time we at inmedia are obliged to answer the same question twice during a single service call, we mentally plead that our service provider will eventually sign up for ciboodle.
Bottom line: Companies know that superior customer experience is the most potent differentiator in a highly competitive marketplace that transforms even the most exciting new product into a priced-as-low-as-possible commodity almost before it’s on the shelf. They increasingly turn to technology to help them provide that superior customer experience. Unfortunately, too often, it’s the wrong technology, or it’s deployed in the wrong fashion. The good news is that there are phenomenal technology companies developing the right tools so that none of us will ever again have to provide our phone number — “Starting with the area code, please.” — more than once.