Don’t Put Parrots In Customer Service

A few weeks ago, I was in the hospital passionately arguing with an HMO officer who was insistent on applying a policy which was so evidently not applicable to my own particular case.

“If we implement this policy, instead of the insurance paying for my fees, I would be paying YOU – it doesn’t make any sense.”

“Ganoon ho talaga.”

WHAT?! I was furious. But I understood what was happening. The person on the other line was trained to placate customers and explain policy, but no true power to interpret or be flexible.

This is inherently why customer service sucks in so many companies – most customer service personnel are simply given a script and if-then scenarios. Invariably, there WILL be cases which won’t fall under any of the planned scenarios – a lot of them. So what happens?

“Ganoon ho talaga.”

“I’m extremely sorry sir, but that’s policy.”

“Let me work on this sir, I’ll put you on hold.” (I’ve had a service put me on hold before for an hour)

A friend of mine told me before that the root cause of this was structural – the product management group is oftentimes separated from the group which does customer service. It gets worse in this outsourcing age – the customer service group can be in an entirely separate company. Structurally, customer service would NOT have easy access to information, nor would they be in a position to make any calls about how to interpret a policy for a specific customer incident.

The problem is, customer service IS a part of the product.

This is why I love Citibank Phone Bankers – I can feel a real difference with how empowered and well-trained they are. In my years phone banking with Citibank, I’ve yet to have a problem they couldn’t solve by themselves in a span of a few minutes, or give me a number where I can talk to a person who can solve my problem. I also know they are paid well and are taken cared of – it’s tough to pirate them. Good job Citibank, you’re putting your money where your mouth is.

Any business that has customers will automatically have to think about customer service. How is your business treating its customers? Do the people who manage customers directly have the power to solve unforeseen customer issues? Or are they parrots with a script?

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