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Study: No one wants to deal with customer service reps anymore

When I need the most help from a company, the phone is the first place I turn. I want to talk to a real, live, breathing human being. Admittedly, it can be frustrating. But there are companies that are doing it well — even better than well — and other companies large and small should take a lesson.

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Customer Service 101: How not to frustrate your customers

A recent article from eMarketer says consumers are more and more frustrated by the most traditional customer service channel we use – the phone. When I need the most help from a company, the phone is the first place I turn. I want to talk to a real, live, breathing human being. Admittedly, it can be frustrating. But there are companies that are doing it well — even better than well — and other companies large and small should take a lesson.

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I recently moved all of my prescriptions to PillPack. Yep, that’s an online pharmacy. No more waiting in line at the grocery store for me! My prescriptions are shipped right to my doorstep every two weeks on the dot. The folks at PillPack took care of the transfer from my old pharmacy. They contact my doctor for refills when it’s time to do so. They even sent a hand-written note with my very first delivery, welcoming me to their service. It was signed by a real, live, breathing human being.

Best practices to strengthen your customer relations

I wish I could say that customer service experiences like the ones I regularly encounter with PillPack are the norm, but we all know they’re not. By embracing three very simply concepts, your company can be on its way to providing a greater level of customer service – whether on the phone, web chat or even social media.

  1. Every employee has a name. Let them use it. Empower your employees to stand behind the service they provide. Give your employees all the training and knowledge and information that they need to do their jobs and do them well. Then trust them to represent your company and take care of your customers. I would rather interact with Joe at Random Big Store Downtown than some nameless, faceless representation of the organization.
  2. Every interaction is personal to that one customer. Although your employees may answer the same question or complaint 10 times a day, it has taken your customer time and energy to pick up the phone and call with their one question. Encourage your employees to be patient, empathetic and appreciative of every customer call.
  3. Don’t make your customers jump through hoops. As I mentioned with the PillPack.com example above, I reached out to become a customer, and they did the rest for me. They did the heavy lifting for me and made it easy for me to become a very loyal customer. What are you doing to make it easy for your customers to stay with you?

And you might not believe this, but about a month after my first prescription delivery, a real person from PillPack reached out to check in on me. Did I have any questions? Have my deliveries come on time? Was there anything else that I needed from her while I had her on the phone? This place takes customer service way beyond simply answering an incoming call.

You could lose half of your customers

According to an Aspect and Conversion Research survey mentioned in the eMarketer article, “more than half of US internet users have stopped doing business with a general retail company due to poor customer service.” Stopped doing business.

If you can’t afford to lose half of your customer base, it’s time to take customer service seriously and personally.

#CustomerService

A native Texan, Summer Huggins serves as Account Manager | Client Support for Small World Labs, a Personify company. She is also an animal advocate, active in Austin's animal rescue community, and an amateur photographer. She wants to be a Rockette when she grows up.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Gabe Sanders

    March 12, 2016 at 4:11 pm

    Nothing as frustrating as going through these voice activated phone trees only to have the system hang up on you or connect to the wrong person.

    • Lani Rosales

      March 16, 2016 at 12:05 pm

      RIGHT!? It seems so outdated, yet all the big boys utilize the outdated options on the market.

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Opinion Editorials

DNA tests are cool, but are they worth it?

(OPINION EDITORIAL) DNA tests are all the rage currently but are they worth potentially having your genetic makeup sold and distributed?

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Over the last few years, DNA testing went mainstream. Companies like Ancestry.com and 23andMe have offered easy access to the insights of your genetics, including potential health risks and family heritage, through simple tests.

However, as a famously ageless actor once suggested in a dinosaur movie, don’t focus too much on if you can do this, without asking if you should do this.

When you look closely, you can find several reasons to wonder if sending your DNA to these companies is a wise choice.

These reasons mostly come down to privacy protection, and while most companies do have privacy policies in place, you will find some surprising loopholes in the fine print. For one, most of the big players don’t give you the option to not have your data sold.

These companies, like 23andMe and Ancestry.com, can always sell your data so long as your data is “anonymized,” thanks to the HIPPA Act of 1996. Anonymization involves separating key identifying features about a person from their medical or biological data.

These companies know that loophole well; Ancestry.com, for example, won’t even give customers an opt-out of having their DNA data sold.

Aside from how disconcerting it is that these companies will exploit this loophole for their gain at your expense, it’s also worth noting that standards for anonymizing data don’t work all that well.

In one incident, reportedly, “one MIT scientists was able to ID the people behind five supposedly anonymous genetic samples randomly selected from a public research database. It took him less than a day.”

There’s also the issue of the places where that data goes when it goes out. That report the MIT story comes from noted that 23andMe has sold data to at least 14 outside pharmaceutical firms.

Additionally, Ancestry.com has a formal data-sharing agreement with a biotech firm. That’s not good for you as the consumer, because you may not know how that firm will handle the data.

Some companies give data away to the public databases for free, but as we saw from the earlier example, those can be easy targets if you wanted to reverse engineer the data back to the person.

It would appear the only safe course of action is to have this data destroyed once your results are in. However, according to US federal regulation for laboratory compliance stipulates that US labs hold raw information for a minimum of 10 years before destruction.

Now, consider all that privacy concern in the context of what happens when your DNA data is compromised. For one, this kind of privacy breach is irreversible.

It’s not as simple as resetting all your passwords or freezing your credit.

If hackers don’t get it, the government certainly can; there’s even an instance of authorities successfully obtaining a warrant for DNA evidence from Ancestry.com in a murder trial.

Even if you’re not the criminal type who would worry about such a thing, the precedent is concerning.

Finally, if these companies are already selling data to entities in the biomedical field, how long until medical and life insurance providers get their hands on it?

I’ll be the first to admit that the slippery slope fallacy is strong here, but there are a few troubling patterns of behavior and incorrect assumptions already in play regarding the handling of your DNA evidence.

The best course of action is to take extra precaution.

Read the fine print carefully, especially what’s in between the lines. As less scrupulous companies look to cash in on the trend, be aware of entities who skimp on privacy details; DNA Explained chronicles a lot of questionable experiences with other testing companies.

Above all, really think about what you’re comfortable with before you send in those cheek swabs or tubes of spit. While the commercials make this look fun, it is a serious choice and should be treated like one.

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Opinion Editorials

How to deal with an abusive boss and keep your job, too

(OPINION EDITORIAL) Sometimes bosses can be the absolute worst, but also, you depend on them. Here’s how to deal with an abusive boss and, hopefully, not get fired.

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Nothing can ruin your work life like an abusive boss or supervisor. But when you’re dependent on your boss for assignments, promotions – heck, your paycheck – how can you respond to supervisor abuse in a way that doesn’t jeopardize your job or invite retaliation?

A new study to be published in the next Academy of Management Journal suggests an intriguing approach to responding to an abusive boss. As you might expect, their study shows that avoiding the abuser does little to change the dynamic.

But the study also found that confronting the abuser was equally ineffective.

Instead, the study suggests that workers in an abusive situation “flip the script” on their bosses, “shifting the balance of power.” But how?

The researchers tracked the relationship between “leader-follower dyads” at a real estate agency and a commercial bank. They found that, without any intervention, abuse tended to persist over time.

However, they also discovered two worker-initiated strategies that “can strategically influence supervisors to stop abuse and even motivate them to mend strained relationships.”

The first strategy is to make your boss more dependent on you. For example, one worker in the study found out that his boss wanted to develop a new analytic procedure.

The worker became an expert on the subject and also educated his fellow co-workers. When the boss realized how important the worker was to the new project, the abuse subsided.

In other words, find out what your boss’s goals are, and then make yourself indispensable.

In the second strategy, workers who were being abused formed coalitions with one another, or with other workers that had better relationships with the boss. The study found that “abusive behavior against isolated targets tends to stop once the supervisor realizes it can trigger opposition from an entire coalition.”

Workplace abuse is not cool, and it shouldn’t really be up to the worker to correct it. At times, the company will need to intervene to curb bad supervisor behavior. However, this study does suggest a few strategies that abused workers can use to try to the tip the balance in their favor.

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Opinion Editorials

Avoid the stack, conquer busy work as it comes

(PRODUCTIVITY) It’s easy overwhelmed with emails and a stack of real mail. But tackling as it comes may help to enhance organization and productivity.

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A few weeks ago, I was walking through my office (also known as my bedroom after 5 p.m.) and I noticed a stack of mail that I had tossed aside over the course of the last few months. While they were non-urgent, this collection of paperwork had been opened, read, and left unattended.

Now, this was a classic move of mine – leave a mess for Future Taylor to clean up. So, imagine my surprise when Present Taylor woke up and decided to put an end to “the stack.”

I sat down, went through everything, and took care of what needed to be done. Even though my wallet took a few hits, it felt great to have this cleared up and off my desk.

Right then and there, I made it a rule to let things only cross my desk once (unless there’s some extenuating circumstance in which it requires me to come back to it; i.e. my favorite sentence on this paperwork “This is not a final bill.”) There’s no point in drawing out the stress that “the stack” induce.

This led me to finally attacking something that’s been on my to-do list since I created my Gmail account in 2009 – create an organizational system.

I set aside some time to create folders (for individual projects, people I communicate with frequently, etc.)

While this is all stuff that you may have already implemented, my point is that this increase my productivity and lifted a weight off of my shoulders I didn’t acknowledge was there.

So, I encourage you to find one of those menial tasks that has been on your to-do list forever and tackle it.

This can include, organizing all of your electronic files into folders, updating your phone and email contacts, or going through all of your desk drawers to get rid of unneeded items. Organizing and freshening up your workspace can help increase your focus.

Once you’re organized and in gear, try the “let it cross your desk once” method. When an email comes in, respond to it or file it. When a bill comes in, pay it. You may be surprised at your rise in productivity.

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