Call Centers Are Costing Companies Through Lost Sales Leads – Learn Why

Posted by Matt Manning on 18 March 2016

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Innovations in technology have transformed our lives in countless ways. With the touch of a button, you can order a ride, plan a vacation, or look up information on just about anything. With that being said, why is it still a nightmare when faced with the daunting task of getting on the phone with a corporate customer service center?

The problem is so apparent; it is even spoofed in commercials. “Jake from State Farm” was a common ad from a few years ago where a concerned wife finds her husband on the phone in the middle of the night. He explains that he is talking to Jake from State Farm, which she believes is a lie. This plays on the joke that customer service centers, and especially a live agent, are rarely available after business hours.

Recently, I had to call a number of different technology service providers for a project. The interesting dynamic I noticed throughout the process was that there was an inverse relationship between the size of an organization and the level of their customer service. Smaller organizations were easy to reach and more knowledgeable about their offerings and my questions. The larger organizations on the other hand, were like trying to find my way through a labyrinth.

To start off with, I was unsurprisingly greeted with an automated response asking me to select from a number of options to narrow down what I was calling about. After several minutes of navigating this interface, I was connected with a customer service agent. I explained in detail the situation I was calling about, but was informed that I was speaking with the wrong department.  After being transferred to another agent and again explaining the situation, I quickly figured out that the individual I was speaking to knew about as much about the offering as I did. When I requested to speak to an associate for more information, I was told that I could set up a follow up call for 3-5 business days later.

This type of interaction is far too common. Aside from the fact it is inherently very difficult to reach a live person, I have often experienced situations where I am forced to provide an inane amount of personal information to even get the agent to begin a dialogue. And of course, this agent often isn’t your final destination, so you often have to repeat yourself! I find it hard to believe that it is necessary for me to provide the last 4 digits of my social security number to access my account.

I doubt I am alone in this experiencing this type of interaction. Admittedly, I understand that from efficiency and organizational standpoints, it makes sense to have an automated server direct customer service calls. But I believe this type of thinking is shortsighted. There is a huge opportunity to be gained by becoming the customer service “leader” in a given industry. To me, the solution is as simple as hiring a team of operators that handles the initial touch point for all incoming service related calls. As in, callers would not be greeted by a jingle and a robot, but by a human voice. This person would inquire what the caller needs, and direct the caller to the appropriate party. Sometimes the old fashioned way IS the best way!

Last week, this blog discussed strategies for brick and mortar retail locations to hire greeters to help customer navigate their way through the store, rather than leave empty handed and frustrated because they couldn’t find what they wanted. I am proposing a similar arrangement for customer service organizations. The incremental cost of hiring these call routing operators might be offset by the increased value you are providing your customers at their “greatest time of need”. Even if you are not prepared to make this type of investment, you should at least consider making it very easy to reach a live person after a limited number of prompts.

Aside from this call routing operator strategy, here are a few more ways companies can improve this process:

  • Make sure all sales contacts are deeply knowledgeable about offerings
  • Create a system where follow up calls are made within hours, not days
  • Limit the number of automated prompts and requests for sensitive customer information
  • Allow the customer to explain the situation first, before prompting them for personal information.

If you have any questions about creating an engaged and upbeat customer service workforce, give us a call