Tuesday, August 14

How NOT to communicate with customers

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Why do so many businesses make us feel like we are not important – every day?

I have had recent customer experiences with major companies that have left me feeling valued and more importantly, wanted. Invariably these are the ones that take the time to talk to me.

Far too many companies still treat their customers as a necessary evil where you are made to feel as if you are keeping them from doing something more important, when in fact there is nothing more important.

Too many companies are engaging in electronic depersonalised communication to keep customers off the phone. This is a short-sighted policy that is built on what is best for the business not for the customer. When calling a supplier, my bank or even my doctors surgery, I am sick and tired of hearing the repeated “we are currently experiencing a particularly high call volume you can call us at a quieter time, between eight and the PM or alternatively continue to hold” invariably followed by the patronising and meaningless “your call is very important to us”.

Is it?  Really?

Not important enough to hire the requisite number of staff to handle calls at times you know are going to be busy, in short, we haven’t got time for you now call back when it suits us.

2018 is a year where more companies are claiming that the customer has never been more important yet communicate with their customers in this manner every single day.  “Use our online chat feature, use our app, tweet us, go to our Facebook page” – these messages can all be heard whilst on hold all of which reinforce the fatal message: “WE WANT TO SAVE MONEY – GO AWAY”.

Some businesses, before you even get past security, tell you they have a text message service and ask would you like to try it?  I selected no, then what happens?  The text arrives anyway. Now the business is telling me “yeah well we are doing it anyway.”

I once tested this service as well as remaining on the phone.  By the time my entire query was dealt with I still hadn’t received a reply to my initial text. The reply eventually arrived a full half an hour after I had hung up.

The business reasons for doing this are many but mostly emanate from the “cost reduction play” with all the benefits for the business not the customer.  It is sold to us as convenience when in truth it is a cost-cutting exercise to benefit their bottom line.

It shouldn’t be that hard to make the customer feel they are at the centre of a business. Every business surely realises that by doing that, every aspect of its structure will benefit from happier staff, making customers happier – all of which has a positive impact on their bottom line.

The reality is businesses do realise but this sort of behaviour a more important agenda – maximise P&L.

If you have a customer-driven vision for your company, then we can show you how to reduce the cost base and improve the customer experience – simultaneously! One thing we promise is, we will not text you, direct you to an app or keep you on hold.

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1 Comment

  1. Sadly, it’s not just profit maximisation. It is also our own demands as consumers, meaning that in reality I think it’s six of one and half a dozen of the other.

    Our customer demand for cheap everything helps create this. When we as consumers signal to a business that we value a low price above everything else, they reduce their own costs in order to remain competitive. That often translates to the kind of scenarios you describe above.

    It’s not so different from our demand for cheap t-shirts driving clothing manufacturers to produce in Bangladesh where they can get away with inhuman conditions. We all know that we don’t want people to die making our t-shirts as they did in Bhopal, yet in reality, we all still go for our £10 t-shirt.

    This puts businesses in between a rock and a hard place. Solutions?
    1) We’re unlikely to change consumer behaviour, so businesses should differentiate hard on whether they are a quality player or a low cost one. Then, they need to adjust their processes accordingly. Are you Virgin Atlantic or Ryanair? People whinge about Ryanair, but they still buy there because they know what they’re getting.

    2) Businesses need to innovate harder on how to reduce cost while maintaining quality. Are there other ways to reduce cost while not depreciating customer service?

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