All We Need is One More 800 Number to Call!

I don’t know about you, but if I call one more 800 number and get a robotic voice asking me to express my need or press one for whatever, I am going to just hang up and cancel that account.

Now I realize that 800 numbers (one channel into a contact center) is a cost effective way to handle customer’s requests, but let’s put some logic into the script that these companies are providing.

Here are some actual 800 number responses that I have encountered.

 Hi, for account balance, press one, for payments press two, for loans press three, for change of address, press four.  Well, I wanted to dispute a transaction.  So like everyone else I pressed ZERO, and here is what I got; to replay the messages press 5, to talk to a customer representative press 6.  You got it, I press 6 and I get,   to hear an account balance press one……

This is a great one, Hi, welcome to XXX Company, please key in your account number, (well I am traveling and I have a paperless account, so I don’t know the account), so I key in 00000,  reply that account number is not valid, try again,  after several tries, I get, we will connect  you to a customer representative;  ring, ring, ring,  to talk to a customer rep, please key in your account number,  key in 0000, that number is not valid, after several tries,  thank you for calling XXX Company, good bye!

Does anyone at these companies think about why customers might be calling and have a script that addresses these issues OR at least one response that will take them to a customer representative?

Some things to consider about 800 numbers and the contact center software.

First, the software is as only good as the scripting that is developed for each type of business.  Therefore, companies need to understand what they will be offering and what will be the likely reactions. Make sure that the scripts do not have closed loops in them and after a customer tries the same pattern X number of times, there should be some trigger that takes them to a real person.

Second, I think companies should reevaluate the cost savings of automated answering systems versus a real living person answering the phone.  Depending on your type of business, it might be far better for customer relations as well as cost effective to have an agent at the other end.  If goodwill is your main asset, then real live people should be on the answering end of the phone.  If you have very basic and limited “transaction” then an automated system will probably be well suited for your company.

Third, if companies are going to use voice inputs versus number selections, then they better have specific examples for guidance; If not you will run the risk of further irritating your customers.

Fourth, while I realize security is a big issue, companies need to understand that not everyone has memorized their account handle, their passwords, their PINS, their favorite color, their first grade teacher.   And to make matters worse, these vary depending if you are calling about your web account versus your billing account versus your bank card.   If a person doesn’t have the information needed, live secure solutions exist.

Fifth, Outsourcing contact centers and agents was a big thing a couple of years ago, now the trend seems to be reversing.  Seems like quality and customer satisfaction were taking a hit.

Given these issues, if one considers that customer satisfaction is becoming the key differentiator for some companies and their competition, then they should definitely consider evaluating those parts of their automated system that cause customer dissatisfaction and if necessary consider increasing the number of customer representatives.

I have a suggestion on how to improve automated systems.  It goes something like this:  1-800 Insane, Hi thanks for calling YYY Company.  Press one for account balance, press two if you want to go around in circles for 20 minutes, press three if you want to go around in circles for 30 minutes, if you want to speak to the president, enter the square root of 35.7B,   goodbye. 

OR re-evaluate your contact center and agent strategy.   I would prefer the later approach!

RHL 9/21/10

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