Are You Cramming Self-Serving Info Down the Customer’s Throat?

Many companies are making a push to inform their customers of self-serve options. Most customers now have access to basic information via a phone system or on the web. Granted, these self-serve options can be a win-win for customer and company. The customer gets immediate information without sitting in queue. The company saves a lot of money by not having to answer another phone call.

There is a fine line, however, between informing customers of these options and cramming it down their throats when they call. We have witnessed and experienced companies who, in their zeal to off-load calls and save a buck, now require their CSRs to tell every customer about the self-serve options on every call. What’s more, they use their QA efforts to drive these company-centered behaviors with little or no regard to the negative impact on customers.

The two most common symptoms of this approach:

  • CSRs will use time during account look-up to tell the customer about the information on the web. Since the spiel is often forced and/or scripted, the customer is left feeling that they are being held hostage. "You will get an answer to your question only after sitting there and listening to me tell you about our website!"
  • CSRs will force the spiel in at the very end of the call, even if the customer is clearly ready to close and it doesn’t fit into the flow. This often makes customers feel that they are being forced to stay on the call to listen to the presentation when they just want to hang up.

Underneath these annoying service experiences is a basic truth you often find in call centers. It’s easier to make a rule ("You need to tell customer’s they can access information on the web") and enforce it ("You must do this on every call, or else!") than to train CSRs to raise the topic conversationally when circumstance and conversation warrant it.

I once read that the "easy way" leads to destruction – and such is the case here. You may drive some of your customers to the web or the phone menu, but at what cost to customer satisfaction?

Flickr photo courtesy of blatch

4 thoughts on “Are You Cramming Self-Serving Info Down the Customer’s Throat?

  1. Tom,
    Great example. Customer satisfaction is something that is not measured by the Accounting department. When measured at all, it’s measured by other departments such as Sales or Marketing. It doesn’t show up in GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles). Because it doesn’t show up in GAAP, it’s often overlooked or downplayed. But, it impacts profits. Sr. Management needs to be aware that there are metrics other than GAAP that they need to pay serious attention to.

  2. And sometimes self-service options (particularly web for tech support) can cost companies more in the long run by creating more round trips between the customer and CSR (i.e. it takes three contacts to do something that could have been handled once via phone). However, metrics might not pick these up, because each instance will be tracked independently. Meanwhile, as you suggest, satisfaction plummets.

  3. Great article. I think one of the biggest issues is the metrics. If a CSR knows someone will be reviewing their calls later to listen for the website phrase, and they will be measured on how often they say it, the CSR will cram it in anywhere they can. If CSRs are measured on more customer-focused metrics, such as first call resolution or customer sat, the behaviors start to change. Unfortunately, as you are aware, most CSRs are not really empowered (or trained) to do what is right for the customer.
    I will be coming to your blog again!

  4. Great comments, folks. You’re right, Glenn. It’s amazing how often we are called on to help Customer Service departments while the accounting department is left completely out of any kind of Quality programs or expectations.
    Andrew, you’re also right on target. Too often the management team looks at metrics that tell them average call time, cost per call, and call volumes but don’t give them a clue how many of those calls could have been eliminated by resolving the customer’s issue appropriately!
    Becky, you are so right. Did we all forget Pavlov’s dogs? You will get from your CSRs exactly what you measure and reward. The key is to measure the correct things and measure them appropriately and in context. The problem is that this takes effort and too many call centers are more interested in what is easy and expedient – not what makes the most sense for the customer (and the CSR!).

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