Heads up, large companies - your automated customer service messaging and tech support scripts designed to create positive feelings in your customers may actually be ticking them off when they're already frustrated with your service. I understand the thinking behind creating on-hold messaging and giving your online chat reps scripts to use as guidelines, but when they are used, the tone often doesn't fit the situation. I have been in several situations with several companies recently that painfully highlighted this.
Like much of the Detroit metro area, when we got 2 months worth of rain in just a few hours, the sewer system in my neighborhood couldn't handle it. I had 18 inches of sewer water back up into my finished basement and pretty much lost everything down there, including the furnace and major appliances. So, like much of the metro area, I tried to get a hold of my insurance company. I understand they were caught completely unprepared for the volume of calls and claims they were going to receive, so I was willing to give them a pass on the fact I wasn't going to get through right away. However, some of their preprogrammed messaging became really grating.
While on hold for over 40 minutes on two occasions and not getting through, I had to constantly listen to their loop of on-hold messaging. I also spent long times on hold with other companies I needed to contact. Now companies think that while you have a captured audience, that's a good time to feed them messages about your other services or feel good branding messages. I can tell you after hearing them repeatedly ad nausea, they get real grating real fast - especially as the customer waiting gets more and more impatient.
Companies need to think about the customer's state of mind when they are on hold waiting for answers to a problem. With my insurance company, they had a message I heard every couple of minutes telling me they were there for my 24/7. Every time I heard it, as they in fact weren't there for me when I desperately needed them, I got a little more irritated. To the point, in my second round of long on-hold I was shouting at the recorded message refuting the obvious lie. I'm a pretty even keeled person, so if it drove me to those measures, you can bet others were even worse.
Also, make sure your automated replies reflect your current situation. Encouraged by another message in the recorded rotation, I went to my insurance company's website to file my claim. I received an automated email back saying they got my claim, someone would get back to me within one business day and went on to say do not respond to this email, it is just for sending me messages not two-way communication. Well, it was a week before I actually heard back. Not meeting the stated expectation of one day is what caused me to call and be on hold the second time, when I lost my mind and started yelling at recorded voices. In fact, as we duscussed in a previous post, you need to make sure your customer service is consistent across all platforms, so they don't love how you're treating them in one channel and hate it in another.
The tone of your customer support has to match the mood of the customer. I also have used several company online chats to solve customer service problems in the last few weeks. In both cases, there were parts where the customer service was obviously following a script to be overtly cheerful in small talk and welcome messaging. Given the problems I had just presented them with, it not only seemed insincere in context of our conversation, it was, in some cases quite inappropriate.
Here are a couple examples, from my most recent online chat with my cable company. I had been convinced to upgrade my cable box and for the second appointment in a row, the cable guy did not show up. Right after explaining my problem and my frustration, her response was, "I'm happy to have you on chat, I hope you are doing great." In a vacuum, that seems like a fine opening line. However, you know I'm not doing great, I'm ticked off. And saying that to me says you're not paying attention to what's going on with me. It was a long conversation in trying to figure out what went wrong and how to prevent it from happening a third time.
Then during a lull in our conversation, she asks, "How's your August going so far?" Again, a nice pleasantry, but when you customer is ticked off that twice in August so far someone has waited on a promised service that hasn't delivered - the answer you get will not be "it's going great, thanks." Overall, she was helpful and accommodating. But, I had similar comments in two different service chats with two different companies where there were lots of happy comments with exclamations that didn't really fit the current tone of the conversation. All I'm saying is that your customer service reps need to be able to read the situation and go off script in order to seem sincere about the issues the customer is having at the time. Or the scripts need to be written different.
As someone who occasionally writes these types of scripts for companies, it was a good peek at what they feel like from the other side of the equation. I think we all need to do a better job of putting ourselves in the customers shoes when they are having an issue with our company, product or service. Then we can turn unhappy customers into happy brand advocates - not by giving them happy salutations, but by feeling their pain, setting up realistic expectations and addressing their needs sincerely.
Flood photo from The Detroit Free Press and freep.com