Customer Service Automation: Do it Right!

OK, I get it. You put in an automated interactive voice response (IVR) system because it saves you time and money. Fewer agents needed to answer calls. Some of my basic questions answered without me needing to wait for a live person to help me out. You can shoot me over to the right department. And when I need to talk to an agent, he or she already has some of my basic information. Right? Well, sometimes.

I recently had a question for my cable company about my service (this is not “bash your cable company” day so I won’t name names). First of all, I think the call was picked up but since I just got a load of silence, I can’t offer you any guarantees. I waited on the line for a few moments saying, “Um, hello? Hello? No really, hello?” Nothing. So I hung up.

Now I didn’t just have a question, I had a grievance too.

When I called back, I got the IVR. It asked me for my name and account information, and then it gave me a few options. None of them really fit my request, so I asked for an agent. It didn’t understand me until I asked two more times. Then it gave me another list of options, just in case I didn’t really need the agent. Since my daughter was tugging on my pants because my baby was trying to eat her crayon, you can imagine that I really might have wanted to wrap this conversation up, not spend more time talking to a machine.

After a few minutes’ wait, I finally got through to an agent. By this point, my first response was not to ask the question I had started out with but to ask what the heck is up with their freakin’ annoying automation system. The agent apologized and I did acknowledge that it wasn’t really his fault but seriously, someone should do something about the situation. Then the agent asked for my name and account information.

Feel like déjà vu to you? ‘Cause it did to me. Yup, I had to give him the same information I had previously given the IVR. Argh!

By the time I got my question answered (and I’m not kidding, that part took about two minutes as opposed to the seven to ten I spent just trying to get through), I was thoroughly irritated, my baby had chewed through part of the crayon, my older daughter had tried to give a doll a makeover with the remaining crayons, and my younger daughter was crying because the doll in question was actually hers.

I’m not arguing against automated customer service systems. I understand that they can have their benefits. When done right. So do it right, people. Please!

Want to learn more about how to keep your customers happy? Check out this article from on Staying on Top of Customer Satisfaction. Looking for more? Find out about Optimizing Call Center Key Performance Indicators to Optimize Customer Experience.

Written by: Holly Chessman, Director, Marketing – Holly on Twitter | Posts by Holly
When she is not providing strategic marketing advice or managing sales enablement programs at Empirix, Holly is playing music, reading voraciously, watching sci fi (think Doctor Who), and taking care of four beautiful children.

photo credit: Melissa O’Donohue via photopin cc

9 thoughts on “Customer Service Automation: Do it Right!

  1. kevinbrownaz says:

    Oooh, let me guess! Comcast? This is a common scenario in cable companies. And sadly, some of them use a great IVR application development firm, but don’t listen to them.

    Dependent on the analyst, repeating information provided to an IVR is either the top or second highest complaint about calling contact centers. My firm’s studies have it rated top, over call queue hold time as second.

    And there are zero excuses for it. It is not expensive to share that data anywhere, nor complex to manage. I have zero tolerance for companies who treat their customers like dirt, especially when there are very easy ways to provide information to CSRs. I won’t name names here as I don’t want it to be perceived as a marketing blurb, but there are third part firms that provide these services at a screaming low cost. Shame on your cable provider, whoever they are!

    1. Holly Chessman says:

      No doubt it’s an issue that must be faced. In addition to making me, as a customer, unhappy, now my call is blocking the company’s lines for longer than necessary, their agents are dealing with an irate customer, and then of course there’s the social media factor – news about a bad experience travels quickly these days.

      1. kevinbrownaz says:

        News does travel fast Holly! Why did I jump to the conclusion that it was Comcast? I’ve heard it so many times from Comcast customers. And yet they still haven’t addressed it. However a quick fix is a fast implementation and very inexpensive. Maybe they really don’t love their customers!

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