Do's and Don'ts of Phone Support

Making It Easy to Navigate through IVR Hell!

November 5, 2009

Are your customers stuck in the infinite loop of IVR hell? Do they beat their chests and swear they will never deal with your company again after a frustrating hour on the phone with your company? These do’s and don’ts can help you create an effective phone support channel that can not only help solve customers’ problems, but can also improve your relationships with them.


Why is this important to customers?

Customers typically call a support phone line when they have questions or problems. Yet, the people who can help are often ferociously guarded by the dreaded IVR system, whose function seems to be to make sure that only the really persistent (and enterprising) customers actually get through to a live representative. So, for customers, having an IVR system that they can actually navigate to get their issues addressed is a big turn on!

Why is this important to your company?

Not letting customers through to your people is a good way to frustrate customers and make them eager to find another supplier who will take better care of them and value them more.

What are your next steps?

Revisit your IVR prompts and processes. Test out the navigation for any and all customer problems you can think of, approaching it all from the customer's point of view. Look at your phone self-service to assisted-service policies and to make sure that there is a seamless experience for customers.

Figure out whether the money you save by handling calls electronically is worth the enmity that results in customers bailing on you!

And empower your team of smart, empathetic customer service agents to really be able to help the customer and improve the customer relationship.


How Dare You Hang Up on Me!

I'm thiiiis close (picture my thumb and index finger just a breath apart) to finding a new mortgage provider! Why? Chase hung up on me!

Let me elaborate. I have had my mortgage with Washington Mutual (WaMu) for years, and I have always been happy with the customer service provided. Well, WaMu was acquired by Chase, and, as I write this, their customer service teams—indeed, all employees and systems—will be integrated (as much as is always possible with a new merger situation).

Well, I got a piece of snail mail informing me of the merger, and telling me that, because I have automatic payments set up, I didn't have to do anything. (Love the letters that let you know you don't have to do anything.) However, I then got an email saying that, if I paid online, I had to contact them by October 25th to sort everything out. Now I'm confused.

The email did say to call them if I had questions. But no number was given. So I went to the Chase site, and there began my journey. (You see, I didn't read the fine print—I was supposed to go to the WaMu site. But in a good customer service environment, that should make no difference.)

So I found the Chase number on the site and called about existing mortgages to ask about the payment situation. I got the IVR system, which asked for my account number. Now, I don't know my account number offhand, and my question was general, not about my account, so I didn't enter anything. I just tried to hit a key that would connect me to a customer service rep. Instead, after I didn't enter an account number and it asked me three times, the system basically said, sorry, call back when you know your account number, and HUNG UP!

If You're Spending New Money, You Get Attention

Most of us hate going through the IVR labyrinth when we want customer service, but a well-designed series of prompts and options can be very effective.

I decided to call the number for NEW mortgages, and, sure enough, was immediately connected to a mortgage representative. (I had the feeling that, if I pretended to be interested in giving the bank more business, I'd get to talk to someone.)

This nice sales person seemed horrified that the system had hung up on me, and forwarded me directly to the contact center, which happened to be in the Philippines (and also gave me the direct number in case I got cut off).

Un-empowered CSRs

A young man answered and immediately asked for my account number. I explained to him what I had just been through and that I had a general question. Without even saying he was sorry about my IVR experience, he asked me again for my account number. I explained that I didn't have it and that the information I wanted had nothing to do with my specific account, but rather with general payment policies and processes. He stated that he couldn't help me unless I provided him with my account number.

Ultimately, he accepted my social security number in order to look up my account. However, because the merger of information from WaMu wasn't complete, he couldn't find it. So he told me he couldn't give me any information. I kept explaining that ..

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