The Best and Worst of Customer Support
BOSTON (MainStreet) -- A call to a customer department is, in many cases, enough to spike a customer's blood pressure.
There are long hold times, irritating music or, worse, repeated advertisements. After connecting to a call center, perhaps one staffed by reps with foreign accents, one will probably be rushed into a quick and easy "fix" that may, or may not, solve the problem -- since many call centers rate a rep's success by how many customers they handle in a set amount of time.
|A call to a customer department is, in many cases, enough to spike a customer's blood pressure. Why are so many customer calls handled so poorly?|
Peter Leppik is CEO of Vocal Laboratories, also known as Vocalabs, a Minnesota company that digs deep into what some companies do right, and wrong, when it comes to customer support calls. Rather than cast a broad net, his firm's approach to its National Customer Service Survey, ongoing research on customer satisfaction with phone-based customer service, focuses in depth on three vertical markets: computer technical support, mobile phone customer service and major national consumer banks.
What phone support should -- or can -- accomplish varies from industry to industry, sector to sector. For retailers, for example, customers may complain about being routed to a centralized support center. But the alternative, having staff answer phones at each location, distract staff from being on the floor helping in-person customers.The computer marketplace has its own unique challenges. "There are a lot of things that can be fully automated," Leppik says. "But with tech support there are actually very few things that can be fully automated." Apple (AAPL), year after year, has been lauded by customers and consumer groups for having stellar support, and overall Vocalab's research bears out that reputation. "In most industries there are one or two companies that really get it," he says. "In terms of tech support, Apple has a reputation that is justified. The statistics we have collected show that they are significantly ahead of their peers." What Apple has done right, and where others flounder, is in the "strategic decision that they are going to compete on the basis of customer service," Leppik says. It is a lesson other companies might want to emulate.
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