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Going faceless

Technology is faceless! Is that good or bad for customer service?

Recently I found myself spending more than the usual amount of time focused on my laptop screen. Before I knew it the day had gone but I wondered had my friend “technology” helped or hindered my day?

So here are some observations on customer service from a single day on the internet:

Don’t bother knocking simply walk straight in!
I was annoyed to discover a download included system changes without any warning or notification to me prior to taking the action and installing a toolbar and search change.

If someone you did not know or for that matter did know just walked unannounced into your house and moved your possession around without your knowledge or consent would you be happy? No! So why is it that it happens with annoying ease on the internet? Internet sites can hop into your system and make changes to settings, complete downloads, override your preferred startup programs and all without the courtesy of “knocking on your door”.

In our personal lives it would be called “breaking and entering” and that is a criminal offence so why is the same behavior not treated with the same disdain when it comes to the unwanted invasion of your computer privacy?

Do these websites really believe stealth attacks on our beloved computers, laptops and smart phones will endear them to us users who still want customer service excellence?

Scripted responses from on-line help desks!
Gone is the human face with a twinkle in the eye and a warm smile when something goes wrong. Instead you are now subjected to the obvious “script” communication technique.

I needed to report a problem to my bank and it proved a frustrating experience. Each time the bank sent a message it started with the identical word for word statement telling me how concerned they were with my problem. In quality customer service the customer needs to have belief – reading the same mechanical words does not instill belief.

Next came their “helpful advice” which suggested they had not read my issue or if they did there was zero comprehension and so the “we hope our response has been of assistance” could re-scripted “some useless advice to look like we care”.

Then to make matters worse each response received is signed by someone different. Your concerns are not dealt with by the same person who understands the history of the communication but rather whoever has the next screen available when your input pops up. Can this truncated approach really deliver customer service excellence?

Definite proof my emails were not read was the “scripted close” advising if there was still a problem to visit the nearest bank branch. This was despite advising the bank in every email the problem occurred in Malaysia, I reside in the Philippines and the bank is located in Australia. Therefore, visiting the nearest branch was not a realistic option.

I am sure face to face problem solving has a higher rate of success and is significantly faster than the high tech age of messaging, messaging and messaging again. No physical connection means no emotional engagement and that makes it easy for the messenger to totally avoid involvement! A good thing, some of you might be thinking. But not for me!

We are humans, not robots and what makes us different is our emotions. We create emotions, relish them, love them, hate them, use them, give them… emotions are important to us in communications so how can you give customer service at the exclusion of emotions?

When free does not really mean free!
I was looking for a download, typed “free” in the search box description and clicked ‘Enter’, giving me numerous responses. I chose what seemed the right solution feeling buoyed by the constant reminder the download was “FREE”.

After waiting 12 minutes for the software to download, I opened the program only to discover it was a limited function 14 day trial version. I then had to reverse the process and uninstall the download. In the process of doing the uninstall I received a message explaining “we are sorry to see you go” and then a pop up “discounted offer” to sign up rather than uninstall!

So their game plan was to both deceive me and cheat me!

This experience engendered a feeling of deceit and that destroys confidence, thus working against building customer loyalty. It is a counter customer service maneuver.

Lessons from online

So what do I conclude out of all of this? There are two important observations:

1. Customer Service in technology is at risk to emotional disconnection and is open to inefficient performance. It is a potential danger area for on-line merchants.

2. Bricks & mortar retailers should take customer service to new heights of excellence and embrace the emotional connection as this can be both a point of difference and an area of service superiority.

InsideRetail.Asia columnist Darrell Wisbey has 40 years retail experience, living and working in Australia and Asia. Darrell delivers seminars and workshops for Philippine Retailers Association Visit Darrell Wisbey. Email: darrell.wisbey@gmail.com

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