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When customer service goes from bad to worse

David Taber | June 28, 2013
The root causes of the worst customer service and support problems usually stem from bad decisions and sloppy actions in upstream departments. These poor choices make it all too easy for otherwise-innocent service reps to make a bad situation worse

Phone Support: More Lipstick, Same Pig
After 30 minutes on the phone with a competent customer service rep, the user learns he can't set up a new account on the website to change his service appointment time because-wait for it-the service appointment hadn't happened yet. You see, you can't set up an account in the system when you haven't been provisioned yet. The "helpful" email confirming the appointment had obviously never been tested against the way the website actually works.

Root causes: Incomplete integration of ecommerce, operations and marketing automation systems; CRM users unable to see all systems involved with the business process; weak design of agent chat business process.

Net result: Burns 90 minutes of customer service rep and customer time.

Order Signoff and Acceptance of Terms: 3 Days on the Phone
A couple days before the service appointment time, another system generated an email to confirm the order and accept the terms and conditions. But the order had two errors that had not appeared on the previous confirmation email, so the customer grabs the phone again to fix the service address and the ordered items.

Such a fix requires the customer service rep to log into three separate systems. The rep can't figure out how to reissue the corrected email for order confirmation and acceptance of terms but assures the customer that the corrected email will be sent in the nightly batch.

Of course, no new email came-and without signing off on the confirmation, no truck would come, either. The Web page for the order confirmation was still wrong.

On the phone for a second day, the service rep fixes the order but, again, can't see all the systems involved with the business process. The rep also mentions that the company needs to send a field agent for a site survey in advance of the real service appointment, which hadn't been mentioned at any earlier step of the process. The rep reissues the confirmation mail but, again, nothing changes.

On the phone for a third day, the service rep fixes the order yet again. The customer decides to do the order confirmation and acceptance of terms a different way, using the phone system and an interactive voice response (IVR). That appears to work.

Root causes: Incomplete integration of operations, sales order processing and marketing automation systems; CRM users not able to see all systems involved with the business process.

Net result: Takes up two hours and 40 minutes of service rep and customer time

Site Inspections: A 60-Second Glimmer of Hope
The first field tech site inspection occurs on schedule, indicating that internal systems talk to each other a little bit. He worked for the cable company, too, which is a good sign, but the inspection lasted all of 60 seconds. The field tech neither inspected the site nor talked with anyone and just drove away. Guess it's an easy install.


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