TMCnet - The World's Largest Communications and Technology Community
ITEXPO begins in:   New Coverage :  Asterisk  |  Fax Software  |  SIP Phones  |  Small Cells

esalesstaff.gif (2323 bytes)
February 2002


Dara Bloom Good, Bad And Close Customer Service As 2001 Ends


I believe the prominent role of e-commerce in our daily lives became cemented at the close of 2001. Jupiter Media Metrix found that on average, 51.3 million unique visitors went to shopping sites each week during the 2001 holiday shopping season (from the week ending November 25 through the week ending December 23), up 50 percent compared to the same period in 2000 and up 95 percent versus 1999.

Overall, it seems customer satisfaction has increased as well. By a margin of 3 to 1, the majority of consumers around the nation felt there was an improvement in their online customer service experiences from a year ago, according to a Fast Facts telephone poll conducted from December 12-13, 2001 by iSKY.

While customer satisfaction seems to be improving, customer expectations continue to rise as well. A recent PwC Consulting survey, Multi-Channel Value Quantification, noted that consumers said the quickest way to lose their business was by not resolving issues effectively and quickly. Nearly 50 percent of respondents said that resolving an issue on the first call was the most important way to preserve their loyalty more important than having a smooth purchase process and receiving the order in a timely fashion. The survey concluded that Consumers show little tolerance for anything less than total CRM responsiveness and competitors are waiting to step in when the system breaks down.

With these statistics as food for thought, I evaluated my own customer service experiences in December and found a few examples of good, bad, and close customer service worth sharing.

Good: Peets Coffee & Tea
Lets start on a positive note: a customer service interaction with which I was 100 percent satisfied. I ordered a sampler of coffee from the Peets Coffee & Tea Web site. I was giving the three half-pounds bags as a single gift, and both the companys Web site and its print catalog showed this grouping of blends nestled in a black, cardboard gift box. But the order arrived without one.

Youre absolutely right, said the service rep when I called, It should have arrived in a gift box. Im so sorry for our error! He offered to send me out a new order, via two-day air, at no charge. I didnt want to bother having to return the coffee Id already received, so I asked if he could simply send me an empty gift box, which I could then pack with the coffee myself. Oh, you can keep that first shipment of coffee, he answered. Ill send you out a whole new gift box with fresh coffee. And he did.

In this case, Peets had empowered their agents to correct company errors promptly and fairly. This was a simple case of good customer service policy, which doesnt rely on any special type of agent training or high-tech wizardry. You can bet Im spreading the word about this companys excellent service!

Bad: E-ZPass
There are few things worse than poor customer service from a company with a monopoly on a product you hold dear. Thats the situation I have with E-ZPass, an electronic toll collection service.

My problem started as soon as I signed up for this service in July 2001. I was supposed to receive two car tags in the mail, but the package arrived open and one of the tags was missing. I reported it to E-ZPass (and to the U.S. Postal Service), and the company sent me a new tag. Nothing has gone right since. The stolen tag was never removed from my account; they cancelled my husbands tag instead of the stolen one; and on and on. Every time I uncover another error, I brace myself to deal with their customer support crew. Hold times for the E-ZPass call center regularly exceed 30 minutes (I have been disconnected without ever speaking to an agent many times) and their e-mail support is even worse (responses take more than a week and have nothing to do with the question asked).

The impression I get in dealing with E-ZPass is that too much of their customer service system is automated, and this binds agents hands when theyre faced with a situation thats not in their script. The problem may be inflexible CRM software, or perhaps poorly trained agents. Unfortunately, the company has little incentive to change since the company is in no danger of losing most of its customers any time soon.

Close: Palm Tech Support
I have a Palm IIIxe handheld that I under-use as a simple electronic address book. When I noticed that changes I entered into the Palm Desktop interface were not synching to my handheld, I was upset I do most of my data entry from my PC.

Over the course of a month or so, I spent a few half-hour sessions changing various conduits in the Palm Desktop interface, and trying any other fix I could think of. I had tried initiating a chat with an agent via the Palm Web site once before, but I couldnt get a session to connect.

At that point, I was nearly ready to plunk down $150 to buy an entirely new device. But I decided to attempt a text chat with Palms help desk one more time, and this time an agent connected my session immediately. While she chatted with me for close to an hour, she couldnt fix my problem. I typed a plea for her to stay with me, but just then the session timed out. (I honestly believe that she intentionally disconnected my session because she had run out of suggestions.) I tried to log back in, but when I saw I was 77th in the queue, I decided to give it one last try myselfand thats when the solution hit me (I had to uninstall an Intellisync module I had downloaded from Evite.com a couple of months before there seemed to be .dll conflict). Problem solved.

Palm gets kudos for having multiple customer service contact points on their Web site: a self-service knowledge base, discussion boards, automatic diagnostic tools, plus e-mail and chat support. In just the variety of support methods they offer, their CRM efforts should be commended. But I can only label Palms customer service as close (to good) because they were not able to solve what wound up being a straightforward problem. In retrospect, I think that one of the help desk reps first questions to me should have been, Did you install any third-party software on your Palm recently? Had that question been asked up front, the problem would have been solved much more quickly.

Hoping For More Good In 2002
Perhaps our current economy will influence CRM policies in a positive way. Companies may spend less on technology, turning instead to more customer-centric policies that their existing agents and systems let them implement immediately. But whether better e-commerce CRM comes about through policy changes, new technology or better-trained agents, the need to satisfy customers is increasingly critical.

In todays hyper-competitive market, the ability to identify and satisfy customer needs isnt the key to success its the key to survival, observes Chris Bogan, Best Practices CEO. Customers have high expectations. If you fail to fully understand and meet them, theyll become someone elses customers with the click of a mouse.

The author may be contacted at dmirsky@tmcnet.com.

[ Return To The February 2002 Table Of Contents ]

Upcoming Events
ITEXPO West 2012
October 2- 5, 2012
The Austin Convention Center
Austin, Texas
The World's Premier Managed Services and Cloud Computing Event
Click for Dates and Locations
Mobility Tech Conference & Expo
October 3- 5, 2012
The Austin Convention Center
Austin, Texas
Cloud Communications Summit
October 3- 5, 2012
The Austin Convention Center
Austin, Texas

Subscribe FREE to all of TMC's monthly magazines. Click here now.

an -->