Tag Archives: customer-service

Bad Process. Bad Customer Service. Common Practice

Yesterday Bank of America put me through a very unpleasant but very common experience. Their ebanking center tried to pay my BofA card account out of a long-closed checking account. The payment was not made; they didn’t notify me of the problem; then I got a late notice and fee. Happens all too often – no big deal. But when I called to find out what happened and straighten things out, I reached a contact center just out of civilization’s reach. The agent tried persuading me I couldn’t enter my online account using the credentials I’ve used before, and I never could have. She was absolutely clueless. So I demanded a supervisor, got one, identified the problem, reversed the fee, etc., etc.

BofA’s problem is endemic. Companies hire raw, poorly trained front line agents who can’t resolve issues a high percentage of the time, either leaving customers angry or having to reroute them to a supervisor – and the companies believe they’re saving money. Any rudimentary process map showing frequencies and costs would blow their “belief” right out the window. Too bad Microsoft couldn’t patent this process, because then others wouldn’t be able to repeat it. But it’s like “monkey-see, monkey-do” out there (my apologies to any monkeys reading). Microsoft and other big call center players start this practice, and before long it’s standard fare.

Where are these companies’ brains? Guess I shouldn’t ask that in a PG blog.

Time for Tech Support to Eat its Own Dog Food (and that includes Google & Microsoft)

We users of tech support services are getting lots of pushback from technology support services of software sellers in particular but tech support in other sectors. Your problem? You believe we’re being rude, disrespectful and otherwise inappropriate. And you’re right. But you’re wrong, too. Rather than bitch about us, how about doing something to address the problems that make us so ornery? Yeah, you’re doing something. You’re exacerbating our problems by eliminating all possible human contact and pushing every possible means of support to the web – so when we do finally get you on the phone or on chat we’re already boiling from trying to use the junk you throw up on the web and call “self-service” (and I do mean “throw up” literally).

For example, Google just directed me to an endless string of “self-help” areas without ever leading me to a person – or even usable information. I finally stumbled across a live chat facility; got connected to an agent; who knew nothing about the problem I was trying to solve; but who did know a link that would supposedly show me how to correct the problem. As usual, I followed the link; was directed to do something with buttons nowhere to be found on the indicated screen, or any other screen I brought up; end of “help.” The next day I figured out on my own a workaround that gets me what I want but will leave Google endlessly running AdWords reports for imaginary ads. At least it’s their problem now.

Then you have Microsoft. Same policies, although they give you an offshore phone number to call for “support” from someone who speaks English as a fourth language. Seems like a means of discouraging calls and forcing those needing support to use their FAQs and links to useless information that’s rarely even on topic.

Here’s a novel idea for you. If you don’t want irate calls from us when we finally find a phone number to call, just try using your own instructions before posting them. Or better yet, have an admin person with only basic computer skills try them. You’ll be shocked. And the end results of fixing before posting will be a whole lot better than “blaming the customer,” which is all you’re doing now.

Why Don’t Companies Base Head Count on Meeting Customer Requirements?

 

I just read two news articles this morning of the type that make me gnash my teeth and shake my head. Both involved Fortune companies planned to cut staff by the thousands based on bad financial results. Say what? To these companies, I ask, “Why were you carrying so much excess staff you could do without?”

Most service companies carry double-digit percentage excess staff. Likewise for product companies in their back and front office settings. How do I know? Process redesign, streamlining in particular, plays a primary role in helping clients meet and exceed customer requirements. And we constantly find excess staffing over-distributing decision-making authority, leading to employee disempowerment and creating excess bureaucracy, both of which drive customers nuts. Today’s customers want to deal with well-trained, empowered employees and as few of them as possible – and on the web an increasing percentage wants to research and order commodity goods without any personal contact.

So how does head count typically change after streamlining? By a negative 15% to 20%, in our experience. But rather than streamlining, most organizations throw people at problems, and the more they add the less efficient and effective work becomes. So instead of streamlining to create a win-win for both company and customers, they create lose-lose by overstaffing.

Why do they do this?

Can Best Buy be Saved?

 

If Best Buy founder Richard Schulze and his team succeed in their planned hostile takeover (and take-private) of Best Buy, they face a daunting turnaround task. How do they fix this?

My wife’s computer crashed at a horrible time, and she needed to replace it immediately. Reflexively, she went off to Best Buy and returned with a new Dell. Before long, said computer started operating erratically, so back to Best Buy and the Goof Squad it went. And then…

1. Goofy sent it somewhere (Goof Squad central?) to be repaired

2. The repair shop took an extra day testing it after it was “ready”

3. Goofy local kept it for an extra day while he retested it

4. When my good wife picked it up, it wasn’t fixed (they claimed it was a software problem and not their responsibility); plus the microphone was no longer working

5. The thing continued running erratically

6. When the hard drive finally failed completely (see #4), we discovered ourselves we could send it back to Dell directly, despite Best Buy’s representation they provide the warranty service

Seriously, why would they want it back?

Are We Witnessing the “Half-Life” of Customer-Centricity?

The optimist in me says, “Probably not.” The realist in me suspects we are, for several reasons.

-Customers were initially grateful that many companies appeared to be searching for comity. However, buyers now appear to be moving through this phase, which I call “play nice.” Now they’re seeing through the many insincere seller efforts to look and sound more customer-centric and becoming more cynical and mistrustful of sellers than ever. Hence, an increasing percentage is no longer “playing nice.”
-Influenced not only by transacting business over the web but by not seeing the “what’s in it for them” from forming relationships with sellers, many buyers are trying to minimize contact with sellers, preferring efficiency over spending time interacting with sellers.
-The more latitude sellers give buyers to “have it their way,” the more idiosyncratic customer behavior becomes – to the point where finding common approaches to satisfying varied customer preferences is becoming very difficult. “Process-on-demand” (term coined by my colleague Bob Starinsky) is beginning to replace customer best practices.

I’ve gone into much more detail in a new white paper, titled, “After Customer-Centricity Comes…?” http://tinyurl.com/9huk63k

 

Please know in advance that I’ve “trampled over” a number of customer-centricity’s sacred cows, and even more of marketing’s. But please don’t shoot the messenger :-).

A Compliment Where a Compliment is Due

I’m not shy about beating up on the likes of Best Buy, Wells Fargo & Intuit for horrible customer service. Enough so I really should compliment sellers for a job well done.

The other day I went into my local Discount Tire store, without an appointment. A staffer quickly checked me in and had my car checked in in no time. Obviously, they’d had some very effective training, because they were extremely solicitous without being obsequious. They gave me a firm time when the car would be ready; beat the estimated time; asked if I had any suggestions for them and genuinely thanked me for coming in. Even walked me to the car to point out the work. Great impression.

Now, here comes the kicker. I was there for a free tire rotation. DT offers free rotations for the life of their tires and actually encourages customers to come in frequently. But don’t get complacent guys. The magazine selection needs a little work J.

Do Buyers Owe Sellers Anything?


How many times in your career have you heard, “Hey, we’re doing blah blah blah for customers. Can’t they cut us some slack? They can if they choose, but most customers choose not to show any consideration to sellers. After all, precious few sellers have shown any consideration for them.

So what’s all the babbling about buyer-seller “relationships?” How often do emotions overcome economics and convenience when buyers choose sellers? Rarely, I maintain. Steely-eyed customers evaluate every transaction, subconsciously at least, on all but the simplest exchanges of value. And no matter how many times a seller has done it right, supposedly building up a relationship, don’t screw it up this time seller or you’re toast.

Besides, customers don’t go out on dates. They’re too wary of seller motives.

So let’s pack up all the customer relationship fuzzies into a large trunk and sink it. The whole point for sellers today is doing everything right every time – and don’t depend on past performance to pull you through. Sellers need to keep their steely eyes on performance and be as intolerant of miscues as buyers are.

Any differing opinions?

Confusing ISO with Process

Can companies with inefficient, even “broken” process successfully go through ISO-certification? Over the years, I’ve encountered a number that have, which answers the question for me. ISO certifies that quality standards are in place, but it’s a poor indicator of how high the standards are and whether they’re the best the company can do. ISO certification also fails to gauge whether process has been designed to optimize customer experience, despite including numerous customer-related standards.

Nevertheless, organizations frequently confuse the two. Any thoughts on why?

The Hazards of Heading a Customer-Centric Company

Last week I wrote about the difficulties Best Buy CEO Brian Dunn was having meeting customer expectations, which had been raised by previous CEO and visionary Brad Anderson, who retired. Today, Dunn is done. Victim of being a nuts and bolts operating manager for a company that needed another visionary. Best Buy badly needed someone at the helm committed to meeting and exceeding customer expectations – including shifting BB’s operating model to meet shifting customer preferences. An interim CEO from the Board will take command while the company searches for a new CEO.

What do you think chances are Best Buy knows what to look for this time?

Best Buy – Too Much Space or Too Few Customers?

Best Buy just announced a plan to take out 50 stores, 400 HQ jobs and many thousands of store employees. They blame the need to scale down on overbuilding. I blame it on shabby treatment of customers that’s driven buyers out the doors.

Just several years ago many of us were singing the praises of Best Buy and CEO Richard Anderson for taking a customer-eye view of their business – including extensive staff training and upgrading retail floor talent. But then Anderson retired, they hired Brian Dunn as new CEO, and Dunn’s first pronouncements addressed profitability and efficiency, not customers. The writing was on the wall. Back to the old, company-centric business model – which today’s customers aren’t buying, just as they’re not buying Best Buy’s merchandise.

Sure enough, lots of formerly loyal customers, myself included, now use Best buy as a store of last resort. So they’re not lying about being overbuilt. But they aren’t fessing up to the true reason. And so they’ll double down on what they’re doing wrong and morph into “Worst Buy.” It was good shopping with you – while customer-centric thinking lasted.