intelligent customer service

July 3, 2009

How many of you have found yourselves pressing or saying various numbers to work your way through an automated customer service menu on the phone? I certainly have. I think we all recognize how annoying this is, especially if we then have to wait for a while until the next available service representative can assist us. I recently had a very positive customer service interaction with the good people at Newegg.com (a site that sells all sorts of electronic wares). I exclusively use Newegg whenever I buy electronic stuff (from new computer parts to an mp3 player to a flash drive) because of their stellar service.

In that vein, I’ve put together what I’ll call Drausin’s Recipe for Success in Customer Relations. (Take note big cable and phone companies. This is directed at you.)

1) Put as much of the information and processing online. Most of us are comfortable navigating menus and such online and prefer doing that than talking it through with a person if we can. Newegg has a very sophisticated return (RMA) process that makes it incredibly easy to return things to them. The whole process takes about 25 seconds. They then email you a (free) shipping label that you can print and put right on the box you’re sending back.

2) Sometimes problems are too complicated to handle exclusively online, though. So we should work to make the phone experience faster and more efficient. Companies should create an online directory of help-topic queues (like Billing, Tech Support, Returns, etc) and their extensions. If you don’t have access to the internet, the recorded menus and submenus are a necessary evil to finally get into the appropriate waiting queue. But we often do have web access, and so being able to look in a directory and see that questions about billing should dial extension 4567 or whatever would allow us to skip all of those annoying phone menus just to get into a queue to talk with someone. When we call up, we could be prompted to either go into the menus or enter our queue extension.

3) When we’re waiting in a queue, listening to the smooth jazz or cheesy elevator music, they should notify us of our position in the queue at least every thirty seconds. Being stuck in hold purgatory is often enraging because we have no idea how long we’ll have to wait. I find that waiting long periods is much easier if I know roughly how it will be.

That’s not so bad, eh, phone and cable companies? Put as much information and processing on the web as possible. List a directory of help topic extensions so we can skip all the menus, and tell us how many people are in front of us on a very regular basis.

I feel like this kind of stuff is so obvious to most of us and yet we’re often still burdened with terrible customer service.

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