Closing the Loop on Customer Service

Customer service is a business function that is core to every organization.  It's also one that's been most effected by the advances in digital technology.  Here's a common theme; today's connected customer is in charge. They have the power.  They are more informed and expect more.  They're close to social channels and aren't afraid to share their experiences; good or bad.  They are an amplifier of their experiences, to and through their networks.   

Today's modern customer service department is on the front lines of the customer experience. They're contacted when the customer can't do something for themselves, when they need a true consultation or when they have a problem.  They field inquiries across many different channels (in-store, call center, web, email, chat, social, text).  There's also great opportunities for real-time feedback to answer the question, 'how'd we do?'.  This is a quick post-mortem on one of those questions that I got recently from AT&T Wireless.  

The call

I get poor cell reception at the house -- two bars. It hasn't been an issue in the past, but since I started Bonfire I'm taking a lot more calls on my cell phone.  I call AT&T and speak to a nice lady; let's call her Karen L.  We go round & round a few times & end up with no resolution - an 'it's our policy' type of response.  

The Survey

Moments later, I get a survey request texted to me - 3 simple questions.  So, I respond.  That helps - a little venting, and I feel like I have a shot at getting something done.  

The escalation

The next day I receive a voice mail from a Customer Service manager.  She's persistent & calls until she gets me.  We have a great conversation.  She's empathetic, confirms troubleshooting, sets realistic expectations and commits to working the case through to whatever conclusion we reach. At the end she delivers everything she promised and I'm still an AT&T customer.  

Findings

First - It's good to see that AT&T is putting in place feedback mechanisms so that they can know when they missed the mark.  It's great to see that they staff the response team with folks that can engage the customer and make a difference.  

Second - AT&T needs to commit that level of training, resources and empowerment to everyone that directly faces the customer.  Customer Service's single reason for existence is to help the customer, remove any transactional friction and keep the customer happy.  You hear the Zappos family culture referenced quite often in the context of customer service, and for good reason.   

For companies that live and die by their recurring monthly revenue (RMR) numbers the impact is even greater.  I'm not sure what it is now, but a few years ago the customer acquisition cost in telecom was $400-500.  Customer churn in telecom ranges from 1.5-2.5% per month.  Do the math on that one and it's easy to justify going the extra mile to keep your customers happy.   Plus, it's the right thing to do.