If you’ve ever called a company’s tech support number and suspected its agents are intentionally being unhelpful, you may be onto something.
A New York Times article published this month suggests that big companies don’t really care about improving tech support. In fact, the article claims that companies often purposely make calling tech support a bad experience for the customer.
Yes, that’s right: the frustrating call you just had with a dismissive customer support agent is probably designed that way.
“Don’t think companies haven’t studied how far they can take things in providing the minimal level of service,” Justin Robbins, community director at the International Customer Management Institute and a former customer support agent, tells the Times. He explains that customer support centers often have a cost-per-contact model, which gives staff an incentive to limit the time they spend with a customer. That’s why agents may be eager to get rid of you and transfer you to a colleague.
Customer support centers often have a cost-per-contact model, which gives staff an incentive to limit the time they spend with a customer.
The $1.6 trillion cost of customer frustration
The Times article is surprising given that many business executives today claim they’re prioritizing customer experience. A Gartner study, for instance, found that 89 percent of companies plan to compete on customer experience.
It’s also astonishing because the high cost of bad service is well documented. For example, 52 percent of customers have switched to another company due to poor customer service, according to a 2016 study from consulting firm Accenture. The estimated cost of customers switching to another company is a staggering $1.6 trillion annually.
How to use customer experience strategy to provide better customer service
Fixing customer support is important because customers won’t tolerate bad service. A study commissioned by Vision Critical found that 42 percent of Americans will stop shopping with a brand after only two bad experiences. For many companies, providing a superior customer support experience is a potential source of competitive advantage.
42 percent of Americans will stop shopping with a brand after only two bad experiences. (TWEET THIS STAT)
That said, improving customer support requires a strategic approach. To keep customers happy, business leaders—especially those who lead the customer experience practice—need to look at the entire customer journey instead of considering just the moment when a customer decides to call the company.
A customer journey map can help identify gaps in customer experience. According to Jeanne Bliss, author of Chief Customer Officer 2.0 and guest speaker in the webinar The Rise of the Chief Customer Officer, a customer journey map unites the company’s leadership team to prioritize customer centricity and drive real change in the enterprise. Engaging with customers on an ongoing basis and mapping their interactions with the company is a useful start to understanding the buyer journey.
Pricing transparency can help improve customer service
One of the most disturbing revelations in the Times article is that some companies deliberately provide terrible customer service in order to sell premium support services.
Robbins explains, “some organizations have monetized [tech support] by intentionally engineering it so you have to wait an hour at least to speak to someone in support, and while you are on hold, you’re hearing messages like, ‘If you’d like premium support, call this number and for a fee, we will get to you immediately.’”
One solution to this tech support problem may be counterintuitive: raise the company’s prices. As the article points out, brands like Apple and Amazon deliver superior customer care because they’ve incorporated tech support into pricing strategies. “Companies rated best for tech support often charge more for their products or they may charge a subscription fee for enhanced customer care so the cost of helping you is baked in,” explains the Times article.
To fix bad customer service, companies need to gain a deeper customer understanding. Identify the gaps in the buyer journey and pinpoint customer complaints. Elevating customer support efforts is impossible in the absence of real customer intelligence on where your company is failing.
Putting customer support programs first
In an era where a great majority of companies are focusing on customer experience, business leaders can’t afford to put customer support programs at the end of the priority list. In some cases, tech support members are the only people customers interact with directly in the company. To win the customer experience revolution, all employees—but especially those working in customer support—should be part of the business strategy.