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There is such a thing as knowing too much. When it comes to customer service issues, I find I know too much.

For instance: I'm asked to enter my 47-digit customer number into a company's IVR, and my call gets routed to an agent who answers and asks, "May I have your account number?"

Most people would either complacently recite the number (the patient types) or complain about the repetition (everyone else). I say, "What's the point of using an IVR up front when you've got no CTI screen pops?" I often get greeted with silence. Someone once told me, "We know who you are, but we want to see if you know who you are."

Aha. So it's a big conspiracy. I knew it all along.

I'm also aware that pressing zero twice will get you an agent on many IVR systems. I use that trick only after giving the IVR a fair shake. If I've made three or four menu choices and still feel I'm no closer to my destination than I was at the system's first greeting, I hit "zero zero." Sometimes it works. Ditto on speech recognition. I give it a chance. Oftentimes, it works. But on those occasions that the system is repeatedly failing to register my correct spoken choices, I have a tendency to irritably snap, "Agent."

The truth is, most companies are using ancient systems or improperly purchased or installed solutions. It's not a conspiracy, just bad management. I forget, reading and writing about cutting-edge technologies day-in and day-out, that most companies don't have cutting-edge technology. For many companies, getting 1990s technology would be an upgrade.

But here’s another example of Knowing Too Much About Customer Service.

I had my oil changed recently at one of those 10-minute oil change jobbies. They are expensive, but they are convenient, so I pay a little extra money. When I arrived, I pulled my car up as I usually do, handed the keys over and walked into the office. The woman behind the counter looked at me and asked for my first name, last name and address. I shook my head, hoping to indicate that it wasn't necessary. "I'm in your system," I said helpfully. "I've been coming here for years. You used to just look me up before." She just stared at me. "Can't you just bring up my info from my license plate, or my phone number?" I asked.

"We have a new system," she told me. "So I have to do it all over again."

I thought about this for a moment. "Your new system didn't import the information from your old system?"

"No," she said, her fingers poised over the keyboard.

"You're kidding," I stated.

"No," she said, clearly beginning to wonder if I was someone she was going to have to start worrying about.

"Someone actually bought a customer database and sales system and actively made the decision to have all your stores have to re-enter all their customer information from scratch?"

At this point, I believe she was reaching to press the panic button under the desk that would have summoned a man with no neck holding a tire iron to her aid.

I shrugged. "OK," I said, and forked over my information.

As she swiped my credit card, I found myself staring at the wireless router sitting on the desk. You see, the oil change mechanics had terminals at their stations, and they were clearly sharing information across their network. My oil change person had no doubt entered what he did to my car into their system, and the cashier was able to bring it up to find out how much to charge me.

So…let's think about this equation. Wireless router + my credit card information + a technology buyer who clearly thought it was OK to make employees redo all customer records. What are the chances that the wireless network has been secured and nobody could sit in the parking lot with a laptop for the purpose of obtaining credit card and other customer information from the shop's system?

"MICROSCOPIC," boomed a voice in my head.

So, my oil is changed. My NEW customer record resides in their NEW database. My credit card info is…well, who knows where.

I guess if you're going to "know too much" about what goes on behind the scenes, a call center journalist isn't a bad place to be. Think of what restaurant chefs or brain surgeons know but don't want to tell you. Ignorance, sometimes, truly is bliss.

The author may be contacted at [email protected].


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