Here's a hypothetical situation that's going to get really specific about details and make you think it might not be a hypothetical situation (except it totally isn't hypothetical and we're not sure why we're being coy about it). We've been having PC issues for the past three months. For those three months, we've been troubleshooting like madmen, doing anything and everything we know how to resolve the display issues.
We're not idiots. We've been doing this kind of self-reliant PC tech support for the better part of a decade. We know the ins and outs of our PC. Finally, we zeroed in on the issue, identifying it as a software problem buried in our operating system.
Since our OS provider's latest product release took away our control over that software, we were left with no other option but to contact their customer service for support.
Good non-denominational-deity-in-the-afterlife, were we punished for thinking their customer service would offer any help.
We got bounced around like a pinball, transferred from rep to rep, none of whom had any idea what software we were talking about, ya know, the software that they created. On one online chat they'd post a link to a service that could offer more help. We went to that one where they promptly bounced us back to where we came from, saying their department doesn't deal with our specific issue. They recommended that we transfer to a different department (the one we just came from) for help.
What we found out was no one in this company talks to each other, regardless of how many times you give your support case number.
As we felt our tempers beginning to get the better of us, the only advice we walked away with that day was to schedule a phone call. So, we did. The next day, we filled out the form we needed for a phone call and patiently waited. We got one, but it was from the wrong department in the company, despite us having specifically stated which department we needed on the form.
We didn't make progress of any kind until we finally held our last rep's feet to the fire and pestered them for phone numbers, emails, and actual focused help. We became the exact kind of customer we didn't want to be.
That’s the thing about customer service, their influence over the customer influences the entire experience. Often, customer service is the first impression a customer gets of your company. They are your troubleshooters (or they should be). They are your face, voice, and often name that is associated with repeat business. If your customer isn’t impressed with your customer service, you’ll eventually lose your customer. It’s not your competitor that will steal them, it’s your own people that will drive them away. It’s the classic urban legend where the call is coming from inside the house.
Look, we know as well as anyone that customer service isn't the decision-making office of your company. These are the people who are supposed to address concerns to the best of their ability and, if they can't, direct you to people who can help. What we encountered amounted to insult after insult to our personal intelligence, as well as a complete waste of our time. It's exactly how not to deal with customers in crisis.
Customer service should be a single phone call to a real, live person who can address your specific needs, not treat you like a bowling ball at a bumper bowling birthday party. In fact, that analogy breaks down pretty quickly because at least the ball gets to hit some pins at the end. We just got cheated out of hours and hours of our days.
The problem still isn't solved, by the way. We're still out in the wind on that one. But at least we have a phone number.
Here's a test you can run: call into your own customer service from a number they won't recognize and make up a problem you're having. If you get help within minutes of a real person answering the phone, you're doing infinitely better than a company whose name looks a lot like Macroseft.
If your customer service doesn’t actually, you know, provide a service, identify your sticking points and address them. You need customer service to run as smoothly as any other department in your company, if not smoother. If the department is lackluster, you're going to start feeling your customers' wrath in the form of livid calls and declining sales. The Alias Group at least recognizes that it's a completely unsustainable business practice. Because like we said, we aren’t idiots.