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Boo! Scary customer service practices that make us scream

Halloween is a time of frights and scares and is a blast this time of the year. But poor customer service is scary to the consumer and causes them to scream in frustration or anger. Unfortunately, these types of situations happen every day when consumers receive ‘scarily bad’ customer service experiences. Learn about three of the scariest customer service experiences and how to eliminate them for good.
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no need to howl (or scream) at the moon with satisfying customer service

Halloween is a time of frights and scares. Zombies, goblins, witches, and monsters are let loose on the public to scare and haunt them. And a good scare is tons of fun this time of year and makes us scream in delight. Good scares get our adrenaline going. But on the flipside, bad experiences that cause us to scream with anger get our blood boiling. That’s never good, but unfortunately it happens every day when consumers receive frustrating and ‘scarily bad’ customer service experiences.

Read on, if you dare, for three of the scariest customer service experiences we believe are guaranteed to make any customer scream.


“Push 1 for mortgage enquiries…”

There it is. Popping out of your phone like a monster bursting from behind a wall. The outdated IVR menu. (Cue the Jamie Lee Curtis in “Halloween” scream!) In a world of cool, new voice-enabled applications and assistants, the old fashioned IVR terrifies your customers.

Nobody wants to wade through endless mazes of touch-tone based options and push buttons like it’s 1978. Customers will scream in frustration. Surprisingly there are still many enterprises still using this old-fashioned technology today. Our research into 50 of the Fortune 250 IVRs shows that a scarily high 53% of the companies still employ an old fashioned touch-tone IVR. Hard to believe and yet so easy to fix.

Today’s modern conversational IVRs delight callers with powerful speech recognition and natural language so callers can simply say whatever they’d like – in their own words – to get directed to the right resource. Satisfaction goes up, and frustrating screams go down.


What was your second-grade teacher’s dog’s name?

Nothing sets me off quite like the random challenge questions to prove I am who I say I am. Most of the time they are asking me something I answered five years ago and promptly forgotten, or worse, something that is not hard to find out like Mother’s maiden name. Of course, now that I am on the phone with an agent, I am the one who looks stupid. “I don’t know… Spot?”

Fortunately for everyone PINs, passwords and challenge questions are the way of the past. Call centers, IVRs and virtual assistants all over the world are adding secure biometrics to ensure the person is who they claim to be. With secure voice biometrics customers can simply state a pass phrase they don’t have to remember, or even be recognized just from a normal conversation. In addition new biometric modalities enable people to use their face, fingerprint, iris and even unique behaviors to prove their identity. All the time not having to memorize anything! “I just remembered. Rover!”


“What’s happening with my flight/package/credit card?”

Too many times a customer must proactively call a company to enquire about an issue they are having. And nothing causes greater frustration and a maddening scream like a customer service agent acknowledging, “Oh yes. I see your flight is delayed.” Huh? So they knew about it? Well, then why didn’t they let the customer know in advance and prevent the phone call?

It doesn’t need to be this way. We live in a world of powerful push notifications through multiple channels where sending a text or email costs a fraction of a penny. Why don’t more companies get onboard with proactive outbound communications? Many do but only for limited scenarios like overdue bills or appointment reminders. They fail to connect the whole customer experience due to siloed service channels.

A proactive outbound platform connected to the inbound IVR platform ensures customers are notified in advance of issues like flight delays or suspicious charges on their credit card. A well-timed text or email ensures the right outcome and also increases customer satisfaction by preventing them from calling your contact center, which reduces operational expenses. Today’s consumers want to be notified proactively; they opt in for communications that help reduce their effort. New technology allows organizations to both notify consumers and engage in a two-way conversational text dialogue using smart, natural language understanding.


Beams, not screams

Being scared and having a good scream is fun – in the right situation. Calling service channels should not elicit a response best reserved for a Friday night horror flick. With the right investments and planning, organizations can offer their customers a service experience that leaves them beaming –  not screaming.

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Chris Caile

About Chris Caile

Chris Caile joined Nuance in September 2015 as senior solutions marketing manager for Nuance Conversational IVR (Interactive Voice Response). Before joining Nuance, Caile worked in various marketing and sales support positions at Microsoft and Motorola and has over 20 years of experience in the high tech industry. Caile holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Illinois State University with minors in mathematics and economics.