The Black Hole of Customer Service

Blackhole
Here’s the way it usually happens:

CSR: Thanks for calling Wenger Widgets. This is Tom. May I help you?
Customer: Yes, I wanted to check on the status of my order.
CSR: Sure! I can help you with that. Can I have your order number please?
Customer: Um…it’s…1-234567

[silence]

[more silence]

[Welcome to the black hole]

It is at this exact point in most customer service calls when the customer is left in extended periods of dead air thinking:

  • Hello?! Are you there?
  • Is there a problem with my order? What’s taking so long?
  • Are you incompetent and can’t find my order?
  • Ohhhh, don’t tell me you lost my order!
  • Did you go out for a smoke break and leave me hanging here?
  • Helloooooooooooooooooo?!

The problem is rooted in the fact that the CSRs are usually fully engaged in finding the order. They are entering, clicking, switching screens, reading notes, etc. What they easily forget while their minds are engaged in finding the order is…the customer.

The black hole is easily remedied. In most cases, the amount of time it takes to pull up an order is less than ten seconds. The best habit for a CSR to develop is talking the customer through what they are doing as they are pulling up the order. It fills the dead air and boosts customer confidence in the CSR’s knowledge and ability.

CSR: Thanks for calling Wenger Widgets. This is Tom. May I help you?
Customer: Yes, I wanted to check on the status of my order.
CSR: Sure! I can help you with that. Can I have your order number please?
Customer: Um…it’s…1-234567
CSR: Thanks. One moment, please while I pull up your account. There we go. The system is pulling up your account now. Great! I have it up now. You said order number 1-234567.
Customer: Yes.
CSR: Thank you. I have that order up. Your order was shipped yesterday…

In rare cases when CSRs have difficulty locating the account or the order, they should ask the customer’s permission to place him/her on hold (not mute). Placing the customer on hold is generally preferable to extended periods of dead air.

Anything but the black hole!

Flickr photo courtesy of fixe

  3 comments for “The Black Hole of Customer Service

  1. October 20, 2006 at 6:11 am

    Tom, this is so annoying when it happens to me as a customer, I normally just hang up whilst subconciously adding the damn company to my list of hated large organisations with bad systems to be replaced by a more effective company as soon as possible.

  2. October 20, 2006 at 7:26 am

    EXACTLY, Matthew. Thanks for adding your voice to the conversation. This is one of those “little things” that may not seem like a big deal to the CSR at the time, but to the customer it can be a major source of dissatisfaction!

  3. Steve Murtagh
    October 20, 2006 at 10:49 am

    Why would anyone call to check on order status anyway? When it ought to be about two mouse clicks away 24×7. What a waste of the agent’s (and customer’s)time. Live agents should be taking orders and helping customers with real problems, not doing the same lookup the customer could do for themself faster and with no aggravation (assuming…a bold assumption… a reasonable well designed web site.)

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