People who work in customer support live in purgatory. Their days are shaped by clients that are neighbours of the devil himself. Whiners, liars, freebie hunters, clueless dodos and screamers. It’s as if they are being punished for past sins by being paid for getting yelled at. It’s a tough life.
My work roles in the past encompassed responding to online rants and the occasional shouty phone call. I once spoke to a guy who claimed to be a journalist (he wasn’t) and yelled into my now partially deaf ear for half an hour, because my colleagues stopped him from entering the nightclub without checking his ID and somehow hurt his fragile ego. I had to convince him they did it only because his handsome wee-boy looks threw them, and they just weren’t sure he was old enough.
Why do people call customer support? Never to tell you they love your company. Only to complain, or ask a question. Considering how frustrating IVR calls are, someone that spends time powering through the instructions really, really, really wants to speak to you.
I get it. It’s not an easy job. Heading a customer support team means you need to be resourceful, love conversation, deal with staff breakdowns, speak multiple languages to understand all the curse words, and most of all, be thoroughly organised.
My British friend who lives in Chennai once received a call at 9pm from his British bank’s call centre in Bangalore, made by an Indian employee, because he was working British hours, to speak to a customer living in India. The perils!
My wish-list of the things I would like customer support to stop doing:
MEANINGLESS, ENDLESS APOLOGISING
Nobody is spared the “we’re sorry for the inconvenience caused to you.” But you’re not really sorry, are you? You don’t actually care that your customer could possibly be dying from using your product. My recent hellish experience with Ola Cabs taught me patience I never imagined I would need. I received tens of empty apologies, and no offers to make things right. Their insincere “regret for the inconvenience caused” forced me into a deeper cave of frustration, because the apology was generic and meaningless.
ASKING THE SAME QUESTIONS OVER AND OVER
I live on a street brimming with local activity – people use telephone and internet cables as clotheslines, electricity transformers double up as cricket stumps, and the sidewalks belong to the neighbourhood aunties who sit around feeding stray cats, watching every person’s every move like hawks. This means that our internet cable gets mysteriously “cut” every few weeks and I then have the pleasure of putting myself through the service provider’s IVR.
To their credit, Tata has been prompt on most occasions and send their engineers to fix the wires every few weeks. My heart goes out to these poor men, who are being watched by the silly boys around the corner, who proceed to intentionally cut the wires again once the engineer is out of sight. Just for some haha-s.
But, the staff are trained to rote learn a lethargic script, pick answers from a template, tell you to restart your modem, then your computer, then your modem again, unplug and replug all the wires, say “Ma’m I am very much sorry for the inconvenience” after every single line I mutter, then be kind enough to transfer my call to another department so I can answer the same questions and sharpen my communication skills. They are doing me a massive favour, really.
PLAYING BRAIN DAMAGING ON-HOLD MUSIC
Please, by all means, subject your customers to soul crushing music that will make them question life itself. Oh and don’t worry about what instrument you pick, as long as the lady is super chirpy when she says – “our customer support executive will be with you shortly. Until then, please enjoy destroying your ear drums with our complimentary 48 minute saxophone solo on loop.”
COPY PASTE SUPPORT
I hate thinking back to it because it makes the socially-anxious me fidget in my seat, but the incident with Ola Cabs was a true test in life values for me. I received one generic response after another, willing me to toss my computer away. Once their management began responding to me and solved the issue, I continued to receive “so sorry for the inconvenience, we’ll look into this matter.” They didn’t know what the problem was, they presumably did not forward the issue to the right departments, and worst of all, they were not even aware that the problem was solved, or in CRM terms – that the ticket was closed.
That big companies can be callous with their customer support and communication is beyond understandable. How many times have we noticed businesses responding to reviews on Tripadvisor, and you just know they’ve copy-pasted because they’ve made the same typo in every response?
Companies need to stop looking at customer support simply as targets, call duration and number of complaints. Customers are people with problems that you caused, so you need to solve. Customer support cannot be copy-paste, because customers aren’t copy-pastes of each other.