If you have lived long enough, you know that customer care sucks!
I am a client of the three biggest banks in Kenya, and I have come to hate their customer care service. However, I need the banks, so I have nowhere to run.
In the first bank, getting anything done takes hours of queuing. Getting an ATM card replaced just takes ages.
In the second bank, I recently queued for an hour to replace a card, then they asked me to bring a copy of my tax PIN certificate. I tried to give them a soft copy but they could have none of it. I had to go out, get somewhere to print, then come and queue again.
In the third bank, last time I went to withdraw money from over the counter they said that my account did not have a passport photo. “No big deal. I am here in person. Let’s add one,” I said. The response was that was not possible, and I needed to go to the branch where I opened the account to have that fixed. Only after threatening to close the account did a manager intervene.
Mobile phone customer care sucks. I had to replace my SIM card twice, and pay customer care center a visit before they realized that the reason my SIM card was not able to receive a 4G signal was because of a ‘small error’ on their side.
You might also know that the first thing the Telcos customer care attendants tell you is to try restarting your phone, even when you have clearly told them that you have restarted it 72 times.
Have you ever tried contacting Paypal, Facebook or Google? You are likely to be attended to by a robot. Paypal once closed my account due to a non-existent transaction, and my attempt to appeal was always responded to with the automated message that their decision was final. Facebook erroneously charged me twice for a transaction, which they denied. When I reversed the first transaction which they claimed was not successful, they sent me a warning that any reversal of transaction would lead to my account being closed.
But why is customer care a problem? Because it is hard. First, I do not need any customer service help when everything is OK. When something is wrong, I try and figure it out. When I cannot fix it, I turn to customer care support. With that, customer care ends up doing the most difficult tasks possible.
Second, customer care is just a necessary evil. If my bank had only ten clients, they would know us by our faces and our names. They would solve all our problems on phone. They would not require us to sign anything, just a word of mouth would be enough. That is not the case. With millions of customers, every institution now needs a dedicated people called customer support, with a well outlined plan on how to deal with customers. They have standard answers to most questions, and they are not the most tech-savvy people the telcos or banks have. Their desire to keep costs low ends up providing poor services to the people they want to serve.
Third, it is hard and costly to build a good company culture and empower employees to speak in one voice, and stand up for your core values. Small institutions are able to that. The bigger an institution gets, the harder it becomes. This has also been the point where many institutions die. It is also the point where corporations risk being disrupted by new technologies and processes. It takes a lot of input to offer excellent customer care.
How can an institution excel in customer support?
The best answer is simply to work hard. An institution should consider customer support as one of their main marketing channel, and do all it takes to ensure customer satisfaction. This can be achieved by:
- Ensure availability of support team when needed.
- Timely response to customer queries.
- Ensure polite and friendly service.
- Capacity building to ensure high quality support. Work on build a good customer experience.
- Giving honest and caring response to clients. Never lie or give flimsy excuses. Offer what you promise.
- Build a customer centric organization/business, where the needs of the customers drive your actions.