Customer service – how important is your call?

“Your call is important to us, please hold for the next available adviser.” This is normally the start of a frustrating period (anywhere from five to fifty minutes) when you start wondering just how important your call is to [insert name of company] that they keep you on the line, instead of answering your call. One interesting development, from EE in the UK, is to charge customers who want to jump the queue.

For a fee of 50p you can actually be directed to the next available operative. At the expense – or greater frustration – of those who are on hold, waiting to speak to, er, the next available operative and now find themselves further down the queue.

Do we expect so little from our service providers nowadays, that we would be willing to pay to queue barge?

Given our frustrations over the years with being on hold and being forced to listen to truly gruesome on hold music – the winner being an electricity company in the UK, fifty minutes and some unheard of piece by Mahler (it should remain unheard) – we would indeed.

The question then becomes, as in queues for call centres as in billing systems, can companies actually deliver this. If companies are experiencing “unusually high call volumes” which the same electricity company was experiencing on every call throughout the year, how realistic is it to offer this? And what happens if you keep the customer who has agreed to pay the fee waiting for – what – five minutes? Does he get his money back, does he have to phone a call centre and ask for his money back? Would he be willing to pay 50p to be put through quickly to get his money back? And what happens if…

The conclusion is that it will probably work. It will definitely alienate the ‘other’ customers who do not want to pay. It will most definitely certainly make those who have paid and who do not get instant attention absolutely furious.

And it is a complete admission of failure.

Surely the answer is to work tirelessly on customer service processes. Simplify them, push those who want to be pushed onto self service platforms, pull those who would be pulled onto online platforms, wave those who would be waved onto forums to find answers. And answer the phone promptly to those who would like to, er, speak to you. After all, apparently the CEO’s biggest focus right now is the customer experience. 

Strangely, the Daily Telegraph, where we saw the story, did a poll – see below – interesting…

Screen Shot 2014-08-18 at 14.47.09

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Alex Leslie
About Alex Leslie 400 Articles
Alex was Founder and CEO of the Global Billing Association (GBA), a trade body focused on the communications sector. He is a sought after speaker and chairman at leading industry conferences, and is widely published in communications magazines around the world. Until it closed, he was Contributing Editor, OSS/BSS for Connected Planet.

1 Comment

  1. Yet I suspect the same people who get furious about this wouldn’t have any problem paying an extra £5 or £10 for priority check-in and boarding at the airport. Is it a reflection of how we see communications now – as something approaching a human right, where we will countenance no discrimination?

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