Where has all the customer service gone?

As someone with a background in customer service in multitude of industries, I’ve seen firsthand the importance of making sure customers feel valued in their interactions with a company. And now in my role at Nuance helping companies identify where their experiences fall short and how they can fix the issue, I pay more attention than ever to where there is room for improvement when it comes to the customer journey. I recently experienced a poorly managed situation in my interaction with a financial institution, and wanted to share my analysis to ensure other companies can learn to embrace customer needs.
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Customers hate having their time wasted, and many companies still have service practices which don’t optimize their time or show customers they are valued.

I have had a lifelong career working in industries which boast high standards for customer service (i.e. impeccable and unequivocal). And thus, I am sensitive in my daily interactions with any type of business to how they approach and engage their customers. Having a background in hospitality, advertising, retail, health and sales – each very different, but all extremely customer-centric – a focus on service is cornerstone for how I see the world. Whether it meant working in the office past midnight because a client changed an entire ad campaign that was due the next day, or being able to empathize, strategize and counsel someone who has struggled and failed numerous times to get fit, creating a personalized customer experience was the differentiator that made them appreciate my help and stay loyal customers.

In my role at Nuance, I use my background on the other end of customer experience to identify issues and find solutions for company’s customer service programs. But much has changed since my days in health and retail. In my work, service was always the mantra for how we operated. But I see less and less of this nowadays.

Today’s consumers prefer to use technology to solve their own customer service issues or concerns (self-serve), rather than speaking with an agent. Not only is it quicker, but it is more efficient and consistent. Technology, when done right, creates an effortless and satisfying customer experience. Technology won’t mind if you make contact at lunchtime or at midnight. It never gets up on the wrong side of the bed or gets surly or dismissive. If it doesn’t know the answer, it is truthful and makes a suggestion on where to get help, rather than leave you in on-hold purgatory. But when used incorrectly or is poorly integrated with live agent support, it can have a negative impact on a company’s business. If they experience just a single unsatisfactory experience, today’s customers are taking action. Seventy-eight percent of consumers who were unhappy with a company interaction stopped patronizing that business, warned others to stay away, or shared negative feedback with the company directly and in online reviews.

Recently, I had a customer experience which completely missed the boat, and caused me frustration and irritation. I wanted to share what happened in hopes other businesses can learn from this company’s mistake and improve their customer experience.

I needed to check my account balance and make a payment, so I called a financial institution in what I thought would be a quick call. Instead, I ended up on the phone for two hours because the agent was having trouble authenticating my identity. I was put on hold multiple times, had incorrect transfers, and answered countless questions about jobs I held decades ago. When I couldn’t answer some of the authentication questions, I was transferred to a higher level security team because they were worried I was a fraudster. After many deep cleansing breaths, and hours of discussion and frustration, my mission was complete, but I was exhausted. Had this company invested in voice biometrics for identity verification, my two-hour long call would have been cut down to a couple of minutes.

When the time invested in a call yields an undesirable outcome, delivered by a derisive employee or a jerky experience, businesses are missing the mark and wasting customers’ time. Research continues to inform us that consumers’ top complaint when it comes to customer service is not feeling valued when their time is wasted.

The lesson learned from my poor experience is to embrace tools and technology, like voice biometrics, which will help build customer relationships, not ruin them. Make sure your customers know they are valued by not wasting their time, and make sure they want to call you again.

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Self-service preferences are on the rise

Download Nuance’s Millennialization of Customer Service report to discover why consumers prefer self-service and how this preference is changing customer service standards.

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Stephanie Khalaf

About Stephanie Khalaf

Stephanie Khalaf, Market Development Representative for Nuance Enterprise Division, has cultivated a passion for delivering superior customer service and brings this expertise to her role at Nuance. Prior to joining Nuance, she had positions in sales and marketing at companies such as Starwood and Spotfire, and worked at advertising and fitness organizations. Stephanie has a B.S. in Business Management from Lesley University.