Inside the Quality-First Contact Center

Customer Service & Support Shortcuts Get Companies Stuck in Ugly Places

Customer service shortcuts get companies stuck in ugly places. Why is that so hard to grasp?


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ICMI friend Justin Robbins recently gave a peek inside the terrible state of tech support and customer care in the recent New York Times article Why Tech Support Is (Purposely) Unbearable by Kate Murphy. It resonated because most of us have been on the receiving end of some horrible customer service.

I've said many times that most contact centers are mediocre or worse. Justin has been interviewed by several major TV and print networks, which proves that he hit a nerve with that article.

The New York Times noted that there are some companies that offer a premium model designed to provide a better experience. That is, customers have to pay extra to be treated right. The truth is that paying a premium for better customer service doesn't necessarily mean they'll get it. If the company doesn't have the right processes in place, along with the right way to encourage and reward agents, they still can't deliver. Companies can't throw money at the problem and expect a fix.

Stop playing the bargain-basement cost game. But know that throwing money at customer care issues doesn't work either.

To deliver good customer support all the time, you need the right corporate culture. No company can change its customer support culture by throwing money at it, and no company can change its culture overnight. Culture can't be bought. It has to be made, in-house.

It takes leaders who are willing provide a whole suite of tools and take the time to integrate them.

It takes a staff that has the ability to listen and management's permission — no, make that management's requirement — to do it. They need to be able to interpret data that comes in from the front lines.

Instead of focusing on the cost-per-call model described in the New York Times article, companies need to create the right measurement structure, the right incentive structure and the ability to train their customer support agents based on actual experiences in the contact center.

They have to be willing to break away from the cost-per-call model and start thinking of different models to quantify customer support. Some of these call center metrics include: resolution per contact, cost per resolved contact, cost per satisfied contact, and cost per resolved contact are some that come to mind.

Each of these can and should be contrasted against customer lifetime value models to justify taking a bit longer during a customer contact to ensure an optimal experience that includes resolution and satisfaction. The only true metric is actual customer satisfaction.

No, I'm not worried about showing competitors how to improve. Please, use this advice.

Talking to some associates about this post, I was asked if I was worried about showing the competition how to improve their game. I'm not worried a bit. 

The road map has always been there. Some companies are willing to pay attention and follow it, while others keep trying shortcuts that only get them stuck in bad places.

The logic is simple: Good customer service makes clients happy, and that strengthens a provider's position in the market. Yes, costs per contact are important, but let’s stop playing the bargain basement cost game and let’s recast the model based on customer experience and lifetime value analytics.

Taking shortcuts while providing customer service lands companies in ugly places. Why is that so hard for some to grasp? -


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Topics: Customer Service Insights