Monday, August 1, 2011

Is "customer service" an oxymoron?

I have just come off the phone from talking with Optus. Here in Australia they are purported to be a communications company. Can you guess what's coming next?

You got it!

Optus suck at communicating - at least with me.

Let me bore you with the details. Recently a mobile phone was stolen and the appropriate steps were taken to notify the Police, cancel the sim card, and make an insurance claim. Today I received notification that the claim was approved and I was given a number to call in order to arrange settlement of the claim. This should be easy, I thought, and phoned them! I spent the next 30 minutes in a never ending loop that took me back to the same place 4 times. Yes, my patience wore thin and I eventually hung up.

A cup of tea later and I tried again. This time what a difference. I was fortunate to strike an agent who was different - he wanted to help. With his help I was through the system in just over 5 minutes and everything was finalised. What a pity he's possibly the only person like that at Optus! I hope they pay him more than the CEO - he deserves it.

Having just come off some pretty spectacular examples of really good customer service (see my recent blogs) I found today particularly frustrating. Big companies like Optus just don't seem to get it. They confuse "service" with telephone prompts that have rigid specifications and are often confusing in themselves.

So let me spell it out for Optus and others who are confused.

Customer service means individual attention to the needs and concerns of another individual. It involves the investment of some time by a knowledgeable person who is willing and able to listen to the needs and concerns of another person then help resolve whatever it is that needs attention. Computers can't do this. Harried, poorly trained call centre people who are under pressure to minimise the time they spend with each customer can't do this. Forcing customers into interactions with these will simply add to blood pressure levels and an increase of complaints to the appropriate authorities.

Its not rocket science.

People like me want customer service when we have a problem and we expect to receive it given the charges that are made for telephone services, banking services, government services and the like. Failure to provide the service we want and need results in blogs like this, then customer churn, then reduced profits, and so on. Its a leadership issue and, Optus, you're failing the leadership test.

Organisations like Fantastic Furniture, JaxQuickfit Tyres, and the NSW Fire Brigades get it. Why can't Optus?

What do you think?

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