Sunday, May 3, 2009

Customer Service

I was surprised when someone answered the phone. Really! I was surprised not to get a computer answering service when I called. A human actually answered the phone first and I was able to talk to a person without going through an impossible menu system. It was very nice and the way it should be.

I've observed a very annoying trend lately with corporations and even government agencies. They are replacing their telephone answering systems and people with a computer voice recognition system that asks you to say what you want and it tries to figure out where to direct you. Then it begins collecting information from you. After a couple of minutes of trying to get the voice recognition system to let you talk to someone, you then have to repeat your information. It usually takes 3 or 4 minutes just to work the system before your finally placed in the queue to talk to a representative or agent. Argh!

This is incredibly annoying to me and I think I've figured out why. The problem is that if I call a company, it's only because I actually want to talk to a person. If I wanted to interact with a computer, I would go to their website and dig up the information or work through the issue that way. But if I call them - it's because I need a human to answer a question or to work through an issue with me. I need someone on the other end of the line that can think and solve my problem! Computers don't do this.

These computer voice recognition systems have apparently been sold to these companies and gov't departments under the guise of providing better customer service. Boy how wrong they are! I would rather talk to a human in India than a computer voice system in Texas! At least the India support can think a little bit and understands most of the words I speak. The computer voice systems only recognize a limited set of words and usually there are many ways to express what my needs are. Which words are they looking for? Whatever I say, it rarely gets me to where I want to go in their menus.

But, like I said at the beginning, I was surprised once last week. I called a local credit union and someone picked up the phone right away. I was so taken aback that I had to tell her thanks for simply answering the phone instead of making me work through a menu system. She then got me to the department I needed right way without any guessing. It was GREAT!

For anyone reading this who is making decisions about their phone support - please, a human answering the phone is a far better way!


Anonymous said...

It's unquestionably better to have a person. However, I suspect it's also more expensive. Are you willing to pay more for that company's products or services? Are you willing to accept a lower profit as a shareholder of that company or a mutual fund holding that company's stock?

I get just as frustrated as the next guy using these systems, but I think companies make these decisions based on other criteria they consider more important like how they're punished if their profit is too low or their prices are too high.

I work in a Fortune 500 call center and although I'm not involved in the decisions, I hear recorded calls that include that part of the call. There is a limitation to their effectiveness (which is also measured). Although I haven't seen our particular costs, I don't expect it would scale in our case. Also, our products are sufficiently complex that different departments must handle different aspects of the product (so you can get a specialist that knows something about your product).

Roger said...

Yes, I understand the cost trade-off decisions being made. The intangible part to me is the feelings towards the company after going through this once or twice. How does this affect their customer retention, etc?

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