Your Call is Important to Us: Why customer service must improve

When I started writing this, I was waiting, seething, for someone at Hewlett Packard to pick up the phone to answer a query I had. As I waited, I had to grit and bear, listening to the second most annoying hold music I’ve ever heard. HSBC wins for the worst hold music hands down – I even recorded it last time I was on hold for what felt like a century, so that I could share the pain with you.

In HSBC’s defence, I don’t usually have to wait very long with them, but when I do, I get a hell of a twitch. As for HP, there was no excuse for the lengthy wait times I experienced.

In fact, an HSBC staff member admitted on the call that day that he’d had many complaints about last summer’s choice: Amy Winehouse’s cover of Valerie. He confided that it wasn’t unusual for customers to be in a call queue for half-hour with nothing but a lo-fi version of Valerie as company – Enough to send anyone into mental meltdown. At the very least, it’ll cause your mild annoyance to snowball into a murderous mood by the time the poor call centre guy/gal picks up the phone.

Anyone who has had to call the Applecare phone line will have experienced the same frustration I did when my MacBook casing cracked:

I went through to an Indian (?) call centre where the quality of the phone line was so poor and crackly, I had to shout my MacBook’s serial number six times, with Andrew giggling increasingly with every “E for Echo, L for Lima!”

The amount of time spent repeating information to the call centre was a waste of my time and theirs, and a crackling poor quality phone line caused tempers to rise. Clearly, the relationship between customer and call centre needs to change.

What’s wrong with the current relationship?

  1. Businesses need to value existing customers
  2. Generally calls to call centres are made by EXISTING customers. Is it any surprise then that it takes five times longer (scientific finger-in-the-air statistic) for calls from already-acquired customers to be answered, versus nearly instant answer for the new-customers-only line? Businesses need to stop treating existing customers like crap based on the assumption that we’re tied in with them.

    The “Brand new customers only” approach doesn’t work anymore.

  3. New technology needs to be adopted more widely
  4. If Online Chat widgets were more commonplace on business sites, I’d often be just as satisfied to ask my questions that way. However, in my experience, the staff answering questions on online chat are often under-informed and working based on a very strict data sheet, most often leading to a conclusion that I’ll need to call the sales line to get an answer to my question.

    Some businesses have embraced services like Twitter as an informal customer service channel, and their success is usually proportional to the efforts they’ve put in; a consistent and regular response to questions, rather than the occasional outburst will no doubt have a positive impact. But reality is that not everyone’s on Twitter, so while I enjoy seeing businesses use it, I also want to see the more mainstream services like corporate websites and call centres acknowledge that new technology can help make customers happy, albeit at a cost.

  5. Staff need to be encouraged to have a friendlier approach
  6. Treating customers like liars, making them guilty until proven otherwise is a nasty way to start a relationship so while it’s fair to ask for a proof of purchase receipt in order to provide a refund or ask callers to provide identification details before answering questions, customer service needs to be friendly, approachable and proactive in wanting to solve the customer’s issue.

    No more robot-like scripts or refusing to escalate the call to managers who can take action, the entire team’s objectives should be to create happy customers, resolving problems and using common sense to solve them in a timely, cost-effective way.

While working on this post, I came across David Cushman’s customer service manifesto, and Heidi Miller’s post who flagged up BL Ochman’s bad customer service experience over a $34.32 accounting error.

How would you improve customer service online, on the phone or in person?

Happiness at Christmas is…

Yesterday, I asked fellow Twitter users what Christmas happiness was to them. I got a fun range of answers, so I thought I’d post them uncensored and as-is…

  • sherrilynne: Happiness at Christmas is knowing there are no deadlines for two whole weeks!
  • matthewpennell: Happiness at Christmas is a non-sequitur. 😉
  • davidcushman: time with your family
  • pascalw: is … letting your brain switch off, kick back & enjoy whatever comes your way. Avoiding clichés about kids (but that’s what I mean!)
  • JamesPearce: Happiness at Christmas is… packing everything into boxes and *undecorating* the tree. Oh. Wait.
  • TrudyYS: Happiness at Christmas is not knowing when it ends…
  • MelKirk: Happiness at xmas is seeing the smiles on everyone’s faces
  • mrjaba: Happiness at Christmas is family, booze and food, oh and racing grannies.
  • jodrell: Happiness at Christmas is… 2 cats, 1 wife and dinner starting at 1 and finishing at midnight 🙂
  • lwarren17: Happi @ Xmas = knowing that leonelyn my sponsored little girl in philipines gets education thro http://www.p-c-f.org/
  • MartinSFP: happiness at Christmas is feeling like a kid again for a day or two; albeit a drunk kid…
  • pidpoid: …flaming buttcheeks
  • edent: Happiness at Christmas is pizza off paper plates (no washing up) pink champagne from the bottle (ditto). All spent with my new *WIFE*!
  • sookio: “Happiness at Christmas is…” giving my impossible-to-buy-for brother-in-law Two Ronnies cufflinks – my favourite gift this xmas
  • weaverluke: Happiness at Christmas is the spirit of family, blood or otherwise.
  • whatleydude – “happiness at christmas is ‘compulsory, signed: Whatleydude…” – LMAO
  • jopkins: …taking timeout to think about the past, present and future; realising what’s important and that you’re there with them 😉
  • daryldarko: i’m sorry – “Happiness at Christmas is understanding that it is just another day.”
  • danielhunt: Happiness at Christmas is having more alcohol than you can shake a stick at, along with a suitably festive house party
  • mattlambert: Happiness at Christmas is having a sword fight with my Mum using the innards of left over rolls of wrapping paper… 😀
  • lirontocker: “… celebrating Hanukkah” 🙂
  • purplekitten: …knowing you’ve tried not to make other people’s lives worse

And on this bombshell, I wish you all a wonderful Christmas, a relaxing time with family and friends. Enjoy yourselves, take it easy for a while, and then get ready to kick ass for 2009!

It's the little things that make me happy

The past few weeks have been a bit surreal, with much of my life seemingly happening with the Sky+ fast forward button stuck on 12x speed. Tonight, however, I’m taking a moment to step back and appreciate how many cool little things are happening…

Little Peps grows up

Last week, Pepsmedia became Pepsmedia Ltd. Sure, in practice, it’s just a piece of paper and a few quid less in my pocket, but in my mind, it’s the beginning of great things to come. By no means is everything going to change overnight, but I’ve realised how passionate I am about blogging and about giving a step-up to those around me who would benefit from blogs or social media as a tool to promote whatever their passion is. My dad was a high school teacher, and I suppose this is the teacher in me coming out. I love seeing others succeed, like a proud parent wiping a tear during their daughter’s first school play.

For this reason, I’ve started offering my services more actively as social media consultant. If you or your company need to find your bearings in social media, a week-long crash course or a day spent sprucing up some stunning ideas you’ve had might be the step-up you need.

Hello?? I’m on the phone!!!

I’m always surprised anyone still wants to hear me talk, since they usually can’t shut me up, but last week, it’s with great pride that I accepted a spot as speaker at Future of Mobile, a Carsonified conference, in November. I’ll be there alongside some fantastic speakers and fascinating people so if you work in or are interested in mobile, I hope to see you there.

Gobsmacking stats

Following last month’s letter in the pond going a bit viral and stepping on PR people’s toes with my open letter to public relations agencies amongst other things, my stats have gone through the roof.

That canadian girl stats

A little bird tells me that my Wikio rating isn’t so bad next month either. So whether you’ve just popped your head in for the first time, or have been a long time reader, thank you for being here. 🙂

Guest writing at Enterprise Nation

Nothing excites me like talking about watching budding ideas turn into real life projects, and I shared a few thoughts on working with remote teams on Enterprise Nation, a site filled with valuable resources for those planning their first personal business.

The home office takes shape

A few weekends ago, we attacked a mountain of build-it-yourself shelves and desks from IKEA, making sense of some of the space we have in the house. To complete my newly refreshed office, I bought a fabulous poster from Tim Walker at the Design Museum Shop, which I thought was just gorgeous! The perfect girly touch now that I’ve kicked Andrew out of the room.

Four years of marriage

On July 8th, Andrew and I celebrated 4 years of great times together! I’m blessed to have found such a great life partner, who also makes a great business partner. Every day I think of how lucky I am, and hope we can be as happy as both his parents and mine are after many more years!

What now?

Ok, I’m getting unbearably gushy, so I’ll stop here. But one final thought… As a child, I used to think that if you got too happy on the inside, it was possible to explode. I guess I’ll be finding out soon whether you do blow up from enjoying your life too much over the next few weeks, if things continue at this rate. Even the weather’s been playing along these days, what more could a girl ask for!?