This blog may be monitored for quality purposes…

Consider yourself informed….

Like the tag-line of this blog says, “more often than not it’s the little things that make a big difference in customer satisfaction and brand loyalty”.  And it can be very subtle. Sometimes all it takes is a few words.

I received a phone solicitation yesterday from the local paper I subscribe too. It started like this:

“Hi this is Linda calling from the Times to tell you about new products.  I need to inform you that this call is being recorded”.

Wow, that’s one heck of an opening for a sales pitch!  In just 25 words, really with just the last 11, Linda negatively impacted my previous favorable perception of this company.  Let’s see if I can break it down.

  • Hi this is Linda calling from the Times:  Good start; she identified herself and where she was calling from.
  • to tell you about new products:  And now I knew why she was calling. But bthe Customer Experience would have been much more positive if she had added, “Do you have a few minutes to hear about them”?  By doing this she acknowledges that I may not have time or I may not be interested in hearing about new products.  By doing this Linda would let me know that she respects my time and that I’m a valued customer.

The next 11 words immediately sent things South….

  • I need to inform you:   Linda needed to inform me because that’s what’s scripted and because the company is legally obliged to tell me about the next part.
  • that this call is being recorded:  Boom!  The words came out and my head starts exploding.

recording-sign-2-edited

Linda immediately launches into her pitch but I don’t hear a word due to the continuing explosions going off in my head.  I finally come out of shell shock and interrupt Linda.  I inform Linda how offensive it is to me to receive an unsolicited call and then be immediately informed that the call is being recorded.  I rant for a few more minutes and end by telling her that since the call is being recorded to make sure whoever listens to the recordings listens to this one so they will hear first hand how offended I am.

To Linda’s credit she asks me to hold on while she gets her boss on the phone.  Within seconds Brian comes on, acknowledges my “concern”, and apologizes. This took courage because by now Brian is aware of all the bombs going off.  Maybe he had a flak-jacket on, I don’t know.

When I asked why these calls are recorded Brian gave two reasons:

  • Reason #1: “For training purposes”.
    • OK I get it. Lots of companies do this because they have large call centers with inadequate training programs and infrastructure.  By having the recordings of their reps screwing up and going off script it makes it easier to fire them.  Sorry for the cynicism but I’ve run call centers and my managers were always in ear shot of their phone reps.  They didn’t need a recording to know when some additional training and coaching was required.
  • Reason #2: “It’s a sales call so if we miss some information we can get it off the recording”.
    • In other words what Brian was saying was, “because our undertrained staff who uses antiquated business systems can’t be trusted to capture all the pertinent information”.

I went on to explain the obvious to Brian.

“Brian, the fact that you record calls for the reasons you’ve stated brings absolutely no value to me as a customer.  Your company has an internal focus; you care about what’s best for the business.  Instead you need to have an external focus; what’s best for me the Customer.  Further, if you think this through Brian – and since this call is still being recorded you can use this for management training – what’s best for the customer is what’s best for the business.”  

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Jovi, Sparkle, and Scott: a true story

No, Jovi, Sparkle and Scott are not a magic act with a chimpanzee, a pretty assistant and magician. Jovi, Sparkle and Scott are customer service agents at Comcast. An Xfinity Triple Play, so to speak… I had the opportunity to speak to this trio during a recent service encounter when I called to discuss my monthly charges.

Jovi was the agent who initially answered my call. After a few minutes with Jovi I found myself thinking about switching to AT&T and the Dish network even though it would be cumbersome to fire Comcast and go with different companies for voice, internet, and cable. Jovi’s problem was that he didn’t listen. Before I could fully describe my inquiry Jovi was “off to the races” providing irrelevant answers and meaningless information. I stopped him and made him listen. He did, but then he continued to dish up solutions that didn’t address the inquiry. It was clear that Jovi only had square answers and was determined to jam that square answer into my round question. My questions were not that hard. I finished with Jovi feeling as though I threw him an easy pitch to hit out of the park and he tried to catch it for a touchdown!

“Jovi” I said. “Thanks for trying but this is not working out. I know we’ve only been customer service dating for a few minutes but I am pretty confident that this relationship is going nowhere. You’re a real nice guy; it’s probably me…” Well, OK I didn’t say all of that but Jovi got the message and transferred me to someone he was sure would be able to help me.

“Hello Mr. Morales. This is Sparkle how may I help you?” Long pause on my end… Me: “Really? Your name is Sparkle?” Sparkle: “Yes, my name is Sparkle. How may I help you?” Interestingly I could actually hear a little sparkle in Sparkle’s voice. I envisioned a genuine smile on a fresh eager face. Things were defiantly going my way now. Jovi was now a faint memory and I was sure I did the right thing by breaking things off quickly. I hope I let him down easy.

With new found optimism, and AT&T and Dish fading from consideration, I explained to Sparkle why I was calling. To my delight Sparkle listened to everything I had to say and seemed genuinely interested in helping. But alas, it was not meant to be. She told me she would not be able to take care of my needs (in spite of what Jovi said) and would need to transfer me to a different department. It was really a shame. I had taken to Sparkle quickly and I thought there was great potential with this new customer service relationship. As she transferred me I thought to myself, “Now I know how Jovi must have felt when I dumped him.”

A minute passed before Scott came on the line. “Hello Mr. Morales, my name is Scott. Thank you for your patience. Sparkle filled me in and I can assure you that I will take care of all your needs”. Confidence. I like that in a Customer Service agent; so far so good. I briefly explained the situation and Scott listened. He asked a few clarifying questions and listened more. Scott was good. I could actually feel him listening to me. When I finished talking Scott said, “Mr. Morales, you’re calling to see how you can save money aren’t you?” Bingo! “From what you’ve told me I think you can save quite a bit.” And he did to the tune of about 35%.

So how did Scott do what Jovi or Sparkle could not? He did it because he was focused on me, the customer.

I facilitate a program at my company that helps our employees at all levels how to focus on the customer. No matter what one’s job title is, or the functions that one’s job requires, each employee shares the responsibility for the customer experience. There are many aspects to the program but this one – customer focus vs. job focus – is a very important concept. It can be the difference between a so-so customer experience and a great customer experience.

Jovi, bless his heart, was focused on his job function which apparently was to ask for customer account information, access customer accounts from the computer, read information off the computer screen, and then recite the information back to the customer. He did all these things very well. He probably got several gold stars during his training period. But Jovi was so intent on his job function that he could not slow down enough to listen. Listening requires focusing on the customer. It was clear that Jovi’s objective was to read as much information to me as possible and get me off the phone so that he could read more information to more customers. Jovi was an excellent reader…

Sparkle was mostly an innocent bystander. To her credit she knew we weren’t meant for each other, she didn’t lead me on, and she quickly fixed me up with someone much more suited for my needs.

Scott was a rock star. From the beginning of the interaction he focused on his customer, ME. I felt as though I was the only customer he ever had and would ever want. He listened, he offered solutions, and in the end saved a long-time customer from defecting. In addition to saving me money he left me feeling valued and cared for even though, in the end, we may have only been two customer service ships passing in the night.

The end.