Sit back for a minute and reflect on the last time you interacted with Customer Service. Was it the returns counter at a retailer? Maybe it was a call to your work’s IT help desk or heaven forbid it was the ever dreaded phone call to your cable or internet service provider. Did you get all worked up and anxious because you knew it was going to be a fight? Did you get what you wanted out of the experience or did you give up and settle on the solution provided? Were you even able to get ahold of someone to talk too?
With the ever changing business landscape, technological advancement and instant access to information via the world wide web, customer service has been evolving too. 15 years ago you had to read the back of a package or the instruction manual that came with the product to find a customer service number or bring the product back to the place it was purchased for more information.
Fast forward to 2007. The internet was really starting to flourish, more people were gaining access and mobile phones were also attaining internet connectivity. More information was becoming accessible at one’s fingertips than ever before and it was instant (or what we thought was instant at the time). Now, fast forward to 2016. Today’s population has been consumed by the instant availability of services and information and now expect that instant gratification from a purchase or solution. Unfortunately, not all companies feel the need to provide that instant gratification with their customer service, well unless you want to pay for it.
Customer Service That Is a Lose/Lose Situation
In a recent conversation with a co-worker we got onto the topic of customer service and an experience they had not too long ago. The product was a business app that integrated with another program and my co-worker was having an issue. They scoured the business app’s website, googled for a more information but for the life of them were unable to get a hold of a phone number for customer service so in utter defeat they submitted a help ticket via email. Below chronicles the time line for resolution and be warned, it’s painful.
Initial email support ticket was sent in.
24 hours later the business app’s customer service replied with a bunch of knowledge based links like “Is your computer plugged in?” or “Is your computer hooked up to the internet?”, this email was from a generic address and had no phone number or direct contact information for the company or customer service representative that replied.
My co-worker went through the list of articles and none were the issues so they replied to the ticket and continued to wait.
24 hours later the ticket gets escalated to level 2, more knowledge based articles were sent and still no call for resolution.
Again, my co-worker went through the list of articles sent over and none were the issues so they reply to the ticket and continued to wait.
At this point another co-worker also submitted an email ticket on the same issue to see if one would get a faster resolution.
Finally, after 4 days a go-to meeting was arranged to remedy the help ticket. By this point my co-worker already had known what the issues was for 3 days but could not get a direct response to their inquiries, a number to call or a call back for that quick resolution.
There are few issues with this situation but the main one is my co-worker spent 6 hours over four days trying to solve this issue that should have taken maybe 15 minutes on the phone. This four-day wait for a customer support resolution may be acceptable for some but in countless industries it can result in various outcomes, none of which are good. Let me name just a few: Loss of productivity, loss of revenue or sales, increase of charges, missing important deadlines, diminishing or bad reputation and even the loss of customers.
Unfortunately, some industries like eCommerce and retail don’t have the luxury of waiting for customer support to respond to fix an issue and this is where Customer Service has morphed into a new revenue making beast.
Gold Standard Customer Service
Companies like the business app discussed earlier have the option for customers to pay for different levels of customer service. Some of the options include; Basic Level is email only, Silver level adds phone calls but only during business hours and the Gold Level is phone support 24/7. Basically, if you want a phone number to call the Customer Service team directly for issue resolution or support of any kind you have to pay more for that service otherwise you better sit down and buckle up for a long ride.
This new way of offering customer service allows the company offering the service to get back to you when they have time but that may not be convenient for you. Basically, this account pays us more money so they are going to get faster customer service but shouldn’t everyone be entitled to the same customer service when doing business?
Now think about this in terms of your business. Is paying more for faster customer service an option or would you be ok with waiting days for a final resolution? As a small business or start-up this is not always an option because money is tight and leveraging the best spend of that money is crucial. Just make sure to do your research and don't ever settle for something because that is what you can afford. A great company will offer great customer service no matter how large or small the business is that they are working with and if they don't you may just be $$ in the bucket to them.
It’s unfortunate that the need to use every option available to add to a company’s bottom line has found its way into the Customer Service realm and it is even more unfortunate people and companies are accepting it. Starting up with a new software you never truly know what level of support you will require until you need it and by that time you have invested hundreds or thousands of dollars and cannot necessarily just up and switch so you make do. The customer is always right but how long does it take and at what cost to your business?