“Dear Customer: We Don’t Really Want to Hear from You!”

Joe at Return Customer had a great post about MBNA who sent him an e-mail telling customers NOT to reply, but to send their questions via snail mail. His question of this service technique is worthy of consideration. MBNA has sent a subtle message to the customer that they don’t want the customer’s feedback. Sending a snail mail reply is a communication obstacle. It will reduce the amount of customer feedback they have to handle, but it will also reduce customer satisfaction.

Companies often make communication difficult for their customers:

  • IVRs that are mind-numbingly difficult to navigate. Too many options and too many levels.
  • Not giving customers a zero-out option (press "0" to get to a live agent) on IVRs.
  • Voice-recognition software that doesn’t recognize what you’re saying.
  • Failing to provide clear contact information on e-mails, websites, statements, & invoices.

We’ve seen an interesting trend with a few of our clients over the past few years. Customer Satisfaction Research has shown that "ease in finding the phone number" has become a key driver of customer satisfaction. The client is often baffled and surprised by this. They think that the phone number is right there for the customer to see, but they haven’t considered all of the channels of communication, where they’ve placed the number on the page, how easy it is for the customer to quickly, visually recognize it. If the customer has to spend time hunting through pages, scrolling through websites, scouring the e-mail for contact information it sends a message: "We don’t really want to hear from you". That’s frustrating, and frustrated customers are dissatisfied customers.

  3 comments for ““Dear Customer: We Don’t Really Want to Hear from You!”

  1. Steve Murtagh
    December 6, 2006 at 10:15 am

    I used to work at a large computer hardware and software company. This was many years ago and the customer support technology was not what it is today. But we used to call our IVR system the “customer call prevention program”. I think far too often companies install techology entirely for their own convenience/efficiency with zero consideration of the impact on their customers. As products become more and more a commodity, its the “product experience” that customers buy. And that is 90% service and support. So crappy customer support will be exacting a higher and higher price as time goes by.

  2. December 6, 2006 at 12:26 pm

    Thanks for your comments on my post. Both you and Steve make excellent points.
    It would appear there is a frequent disjoint between a company’s perception of their new customer-company communication routes and those of the customer.
    Company says: “Hey, customers get routed automatically and it costs us less money. Yippie.”
    Customer says: “Why is it now more difficult to get my problem solved?”
    Accounting reports of projected cost savings must be equally weighted with the effects on customer experience.

  3. December 6, 2006 at 2:08 pm

    Great comments, gentlemen. Technology is great – but only if it works for both the company and the customer. Too often companies look at the bottom line savings and ignore the long term cost in customer satisfaction and retention!!

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