I’d venture to say that most people don’t have a desire to call customer service. If one ever got lucky enough and passed the Interactive Voice Response (IVR), the customer service representative (CSR) is sometimes not all that helpful (like the time I spoke with Qwest Customer Service, my post about Qwest). But, getting passed the IVR — the spaghetti-diagram-like IVR — is the first challenge.
Recently, I came across an iphone application called Direct Line, which automates the IVR process and brings the customer straight to the customer representative. In other words, instead of pressing #2, #3, #0, #0, #0, the iphone application does all of that for you and takes you straight to a human customer service representative.
In their words,
When you load up the app, you’re looking at a straight list of company names. You never really see more than just that when using Direct Line, but pressing on any company will immediately exit the app and launch a phone call. The phone number it calls may just have an extra digit at the end of it or sometimes nothing at all, but most of the time you’ll be looking at a good deal of comma’s and numbers trailing the companies standard number.
Those symbols allow for the phone to delay in sending over the additional numbers, keeping the entire process automated for you. You will however, have to enter in account information in certain places (AT&T requires it to get anyone on the phone), but Direct Line makes sure to drop you off at that point, leaving nothing else but a live person your next step.
I’ve tried this iphone app and I can tell you it works: bringing the customer straight to a human customer service representative is a great buy for $0.99 — money well-spent for sure.
The development of this iphone application really highlights a few important conclusions for the customer:
- Make it easy for the customer to speak with a human; the customer needs to speak with a human: if a customer needs help, going through an IVR is the last thing the customer wants to do. An IVR is a navel-gazing tool that helps firms manage demand, resource allocation, and operations, but the trade-off is that the firm is so busy navel-gazing that it fails to look at the needs of the customer.
- If a customer is calling customer service, there was already a service failure — do not add insult to injury: in other words, customers do not wake up one day and say “hey, i’m going to call customer service.” Typically, customers call customer service because some failure somewhere happened and they are seeking help. That first failure is “injury” and if the customer has a bad experience in their seeking help from customer service, then that is “insult”: hence “insult to injury” — do not add insult to injury.
- The converse of (2) is that, even though there was a first failure somewhere, customer service can act as an effective and strategic response to the customer — it can recover the customer from a bad experience.
- At the end of it all, help the customer say to herself “I Rock!” — help the customer feel successful.
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