Your marketing is killing your customer service

Yeah, you. Corporate America. [Maybe corporate everywhere…but my recent experiences are homegrown, so no blame-passing today.]

Your amazingly successful efforts in data collection, standardization, segmentation and automation have removed the human element from your interactions with your customers — remember them? The people who make an emotional, human decision to spend their cash with you and not your competitor.

We’ve all complained about automated phone systems — everything from “press 1 for sales” to advanced voice-recognition — but everyone still uses them. Somewhere along the line, they became cheaper [and therefore “better”] than human operators. They easily hold all the options in their automated brains, and “always” direct calls to the “right department.” I got one yesterday that gave me a dizzying amount of options. I wanted sales. I wanted to make a purchase. And I couldn’t figure out what number to press. I had called the 800-number promoted on the company’s website that said, Call here to make a faster purchase.

People, I’m a marketer. If your marketer customers can’t figure this out, you’re making it too hard.

On each of my four [4!!!] phone calls with the same company, trying to make the same simple purchase, I had to give out my account number and my PIN number. This was not a financial or health care institution. I had no secret data with them, and my purchase certainly wasn’t private in any way. But they refused to make the sale until I’d given them all this identifying information, so that their records would reflect all my purchases together.

Let me stop here to point out a company that does this right. I’ve bought from Lands’ End for more than 20 years. When I call them, which I still do occasionally despite using their website primarily for more than 10 years, they do ask for my catalog number, but if I don’t have my customer number, no one freaks out. They will still sell me stuff.

But what made me angriest about the whole thing yesterday was that the phone rep never, ever went off script. Everything she [I talked to 2 women and 1 man on the 4 calls, and this was one of the women] said started with something like, “In order to serve you better….”

No. It does NOT serve me better to have to tell you all the information I just told the LAST representative I spoke with. It does NOT serve me better to have to wade through more than 20 minutes of data confirmation and gathering on your part in order to buy one product. I understand that as marketers, we want all the data. We want to make sure the customer orders the right product, because they’ll blame us if they order the wrong product. But placing the burden of information-gathering on your customers does not serve them better. At the very least, let’s all write better, more honest scripts, shall we?

The whole scenario made me angrier than I care to admit, but the part that really ticked me off was that the customer service rep kept telling me it was my fault. I was the party in the wrong for being upset at having to repeat all of my data. At having to give them ANY data beyond the truly essential: product, shipping address and credit card number. I was wrong to think that was all I needed for a purchase, and I shouldn’t be so mad about it.

Well, what I’m really mad about is that apparently, someone in corporate America decided it was a good idea to evaluate customer service reps on how well they read scripts, instead of on how well they serve customers.

This woman couldn’t fix that. Bless her heart.

But maybe you can.

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2 Responses to Your marketing is killing your customer service

  1. Lena July 15, 2010 at 7:26 pm #

    Great post. Your yesterday sounds exactly like my Summer of 2009 with AT&T.

  2. Summer Huggins July 19, 2010 at 8:26 pm #

    After reading this post, I can't help but think of Zappos and how they've been allowed to just make it happen — of the cuff and with no script — when a customer calls. Of course it's the very opposite end of the spectrum from what you've just experienced, but I think the company you just dealt with could learn a thing or two from it. They could be *building* customers for life instead of forcing them…

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