Problems With Customer Service

“Quality service to customers should be the standard”

“Customer service” is a misnomer for a lot of corporations these days. When you call a company with a question about your account or a problem with a product your call will go to a call center. It will be answered by an agent who is almost certainly poorly trained, poorly paid, and under constant stress because they are doing a job in which their performance is judged by standards that have little to do with the actual customer service they try to provide. 

Answering a question accurately or fixing a technical problem are small components of the method used to grade agents’ performance. They must use the precise opening script laid down by the quality department. They must also use the exact wording required for closing the call. That is why, when your level of frustration has reached the point that you are willing to try to navigate through their automated phone system to get to an agent who might answer your question or fix your non-functioning equipment, before you get to say anything you must listen to “Thank you for calling XYZ Corporation, setting the industry standard for widgets and doodads.” By the time you are actually hearing a live person you are about to explode; instead of getting on with solving your problem, you have to listen to some chuckle-headed statements about who you have called (you did call them; you already know who you are calling, right?) and how wonderful the company is. Right now your stuff is not working, so the company is less than wonderful from your perspective.

When you finally manage to explain the problem you are having, you must wait again while the agent tells you how sorry she is that you are having trouble and then assures you that she will help you. These statements are required by internal quality monitors and agents who do not make them will probably lose their jobs eventually. When I call with a technical problem, the degree of your concern about my interests is far down my list of priorities. I want the problem fixed rather than an expression of sympathy for my plight.

The standards set for customer service agents are widespread, maybe universal, and they are not directed toward customer service. They are, instead, leveraged in favor of specific items that quality assurance personnel can grade. The result is that customers have a low opinion of the level of service they receive, and rightly so. Agents who handle difficult problems well are not rewarded for their excellent service. Instead, they are written up because they did not exactly reproduce some statement required by the quality department; this is often a statement the customer does not want to here. As long as the job credentials of customer service agents are judged by quality assurance personnel who are using fabricated standards, customer service will be poor. It would an entire rethinking of quality standards to make a change and that is not likely any time soon.

Quality assurance departments are staffed almost entirely by people who could not handle doing customer service themselves. They ran to the first opportunity available to move away from direct contact with customers. Perhaps if they were required to spend at least half of their working hours answering phones the methods and standards would change. Until then, we as customers have to live with the fact that the only way to talk with an agent who actually knows how to help with our problem is to keep calling back until we get lucky.

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