Customer service calls are never pleasant, but it seems that many companies hate them even more than customers do!
Not long ago, mobile phone giant Sprint made headlines when they "fired" 1000+ of their customers for "excessive complaining". Those "demon customers" were allegedly guilty of calling Sprint's customer service line too many times per month--costing Sprint more money to staff the service lines than it was willing to pay.
What is interesting to me is that Sprint (and many, many other companies) view customer service as the bane of their existence.
To them, customer service is expensive, time consuming, and frustrating because only the unhappy people contact them. It's something to be shuttled to the bottom of the priority list, automated as much as possible, and outsourced whenever possible.
It's not something they try to put a lot of brainpower into.
But, let's try something different by putting on our thinking caps, asking some questions and looking for opportunities in customer service.
Question 1: What if Sprint welcomed customer complaints?
Customers rarely call companies to thank the company for doing something right. Usually, calls result from something going wrong. (Rocket science, huh?)
Well, what if Sprint or another company combined their customer service line with their improvement squad? Then, when customers called in with problems, those problems could be noted and fixed. Priority could be given to the problems with the most call-ins.
Although this would probably overload the company right away, in the long-term it would have significant benefits. Customers wouldn't have those problems anymore and customer service reps wouldn't have to deal with common issues on a time-consuming individual basis. Most importantly, by fixing the recurring problems with their service, the company would have a much stronger position in the market.
Question 2: What if Sprint used those calls as an opportunity to blow their customers away?
Imagine calling a customer service line, fully expecting be shuttled from computer voice to unhelpful agent and to have to fight for every little thing, and then hearing...
"We're so glad that you brought this to our attention. Could you please tell me a little more about the situation so that we can fix it for you? . . . I just want you to know that we're also making a note of this issue and submitting it to our improvement office."
Wow. Wouldn't you feel great to find out that the company cared about you and legitimately wanted to fix the problem? Wouldn't that company really stand out in your mind?
The truth is, no one wants things to go wrong, and no one enjoys calling the help line. When most people do finally call customer service, they're expecting a runaround at best, and wouldn't be surprised if they end up with a customer service horror story.
There's a reason that so many people love Apple. Not because their products are the best in the world, but because they work hard to make sure that every customer has a positive experience.
This is beginning to sound interesting, isn't it? Who really sits down to think about how customer service calls could be a positive both for the company and the customers? (Hey, stop pointing at me!)
But since most companies seem to view customer service as a bad thing, it's a ripe area for new ideas. The key is to start asking questions.
Here are a couple more of the ones I'm thinking about:
- What if calling customer service was fun?
- What if Sprint benefited from people calling the service line?
- What if Sprint didn't have to pay for customer service reps when they didn't need them?
Continue to Part 2 for more ideas about how those "What if" statements could work.
And please share your own! What more "What If" statements can you think of?