Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Customer service - the old new way

I spent two and a half hours on the phone today with a State service. Probably 45-60 minutes of that time was waiting for someone to pick up the phone. The first time someone picked up the phone they were impolite, aggressive, patronizing and generally unpleasant, unknowledgeable and unhelpful. When I asked to speak to their supervisor they hung up on me without a word. This surprised me as the previous week I had spoken to someone who was very helpful in the same department. I called back, initially to complain - something I do only extremely rarely. This time I spoke to someone whose manner was very helpful and warm. They put me through to a supervisor, who then advised me to speak to another department. I called the other department and was told I needed to speak to the first department again. I called the first department and was told it was actually the second department but I needed a supervisor to sort out the mess. I called the second department, got a supervisor who told me I needed a third department. I called the third department and two and a half hours later talked to someone who knew the big picture, had power and understood my questions.

I have to ask myself - “Why didn’t all the people have the education to understand the big picture?” I also have to ask myself, “Why could only one department out of three deal with the issue they were all set up to deal with?” I know who I’ll call in the future. I also know who I’ll avoid at all costs. If this were a commercial enterprise, it would go bankrupt very quickly. It’s amazing to me that after a century of technology, we still cannot organize a more “user friendly” society.

Right now the economic situation has caused great tension. Can you imagine the gains that could be made by a friendly, customer-centric model in this environment? My experience today reinforced my determination as a marketer to see things from the client’s point of view. The relief I felt talking to a knowledgeable and friendly person who had the power to follow through was physically palpable. How can we create this physical and mental relief for our clients?

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