I’m afraid we are witnessing a trend in customer servicethat signals the end of a short-lived focus on the customer. Call me old-fashioned, but I think this is a huge mistake on the part of companies that want to retain customers in a highly competitive environment.  Not everyone wants to talk to an automated phone service or talk to a customer service rep who acts like a robot.

I recently called the “customer service and support” phone number of a leading telecommunications MP900289863 company in the U.S. I was inquiring about a charge on my bill that I didn’t understand and I also wanted to arrange automatic payment of my bill. Now, you’d think that a company that size would have state-of-the-art, world-class customer service.  That was not my experience.

First of all, it took me 20 minutes to find the right number to call. I started with the main customer service number which took me to a list of automated options, none of which described my problem. When I finally reached a live human voice, I heard the person say, “How can we make you feel like a valued customer today?” That’s a good start, but then we proceeded to have a conversation filled with lines like:

  • "I will go the extra mile to solve this problem."
  • "I appreciate your patience so much."
  • "Whatever it takes I will make this right for you."
  • "I appreciate your patience so much."
  • "I will stay on the line until you are satisfied."
  • "I appreciate your patience so much."
  • "It is my goal to make sure you are a satisfied customer today."
  • "I appreciate your patience so much."
  • "Thank you for being the best part of [company name]."

At one point in our conversation, this rep had to leave for a few minutes to check on a request and when she returned she started saying these lines all over again.  I might as well have been talking to HAL. And then, to top things off, I got this question, “Would you say that I treated you well during this call today?” This question reminded me of the car salesmen that I once had who ended the sale by asking me to give him a high rating when I received the JD Power survey. Obviously, measures of customer satisfaction are figuring more into performance reviews than they used to. But I can’t evaluate service until I see if the problem has been solved or, in the case of the car dealer, my new car has been delivered as promised.

Now, in fairness, I might have been talking to a new customer service rep who had been asked to use a script until she could integrate the intent of the statements into her own words. However, in recent weeks, I have had similar conversations with customer service reps in three different leading telecommunications companies, all using a similar set of statements over and over again.

I worry that customer service, for the sake of efficiency, is becoming so automated and routinized that the words are meaningless and the service is annoying and frustrating. Poor customer service is symptomatic of a company culture that espouses excellence but, in practice, only does things that reduce cost and increase efficiency. Telecommunications companies, in particular, would do well to heed the advice of J. Higgins:

  1. Listen to customers; pay attention so you can resolve the problem as the customer views it
  2. Apologize once for the problem and then get on with solving it
  3. Only promise what you can deliver
  4. Make it easy for customers to get back to you if they have more questions or want to check on progress
  5. Make learning about providing excellent customer service a continuous, on-going process
  6. Always be respectful of customers

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