The customer service mistake that could kill your client base

A research analyst says unified communications is not about treating all customers equally. Far from it


You know your attempt to improve customer service has backfired when the Twitterverse spews bile at you.

British mobile carrier EE announced last month that people can now jump the queue (or “bud in line,” as we non-Brits would say) on its customer service phone helpline … if they pay 50p. (That’s about 89 cents Canadian.)

“Disgusting,” one customer tweeted. “Ludicrous!” exclaimed another tweet.

As one EE subscriber tweeted: “IMO it sends the wrong message. ‘We love our customers. We deliver great service … as long as you pay extra!’”

Anger mounted further after EE acknowledged two things: it uses exactly the same customer service agents for 50p callers as for non-paying callers; while the regular helpline is open from 8 a.m. until 10 p.m., the new Priority Answer line is only available between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m.

In one tweeter’s estimation, EE’s main offence was to violate the concept that “everyone should be treated equally.”

In a recent NoJitter Webinar, co-host Sheila McGee-Smith agreed that EE’s approach was misguided. But she disagreed that all customers must be “treated equally.” In fact, she argued that treating all customers alike is a relic of the past that can kill an organization’s client base today.

Instead, “companies (need) to deliver an unprecedented level of personalized customer service interactions,” said McGee-Smith, founder and principal analyst at McGee-Smith Analytics.

This personalized approach was expanded upon throughout the Webinar. In the past, older technology confined companies to a linear model of customer service that was basically ‘first come, first served’, either on the phone or in person. Thanks to the potent combination of analytics, algorithms and cloud-based (UC) technology, that era is now ending.

“How does the cloud enable better customer experience and engagement? It does a good job of matching the best customer with the best (customer service) agent,” said McGee-Smith.

The Webinar went on to describe how companies, by using next-generation cloud architecture, can build a UC platform to provide service for their customers that is: A) more relevant to their interests; B) delivered via the channel of their choice. Also noted were the potential business benefits of cloud-based UC: faster deployment (especially across multiple locations) along with affordability, customization, scalability, integration and flexibility.

The traditional approach to customer service simply entailed shouting “Next!” to summon whoever happened to be at the front of the line. In the new era of customer service, that’s just not good enough anymore. As EE discovered, neither is charging customers money just to get to the front of the line faster. With the help of cloud-based UC, companies can do a lot better these days.

To be fair to be EE, it said some of that 50p fee will go towards improving its customer service systems. A wise move, since EE was just named the most complained-about carrier in the UK. Perhaps an investment in cloud-based UC (or a more strategic deployment of it) would prove even wiser.
photo credit: bvriesem via photopin cc

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