Outrageous! How Tech Support Makes You Mad – On Purpose!

by Colin Shaw on August 2, 2016

I’d do almost anything to avoid calling tech support for my local cable and internet company.

You probably feel the same way.  It’s widely regarded as a miserable, time wasting experience. But tech support’s poor customer service is no accident.

The New York Times reports that certain companies create a telephone customer service experience that is guaranteed to frustrate, annoy and anger anyone who dares to dial that 800 number. Not surprisingly, internet and cell phone providers top the list.

The shocking thing is that these companies know they’re providing terrible customer service. And they don’t care. Last year, trade group ICMI conducted a survey in which a whopping 92 percent of customer service managers said they thought their agents could be more effective. Why was this number so high? Nearly three quarters of the managers said that company policies prevented the agents from providing a good customer experience.

These company policies seem to have one driving force: cost. With customer service calls increasing in complexity, the Times reports that many companies use a “cost per contact model,” in which customer service agents are only allowed to spend a certain amount of time on the phone with a customer. If the customer’s problem can’t be solved in the allotted time, the customer must be transferred to someone else. For the customer, that means additional time on hold and the terrifying possibility of having the call dropped and having to start all over again.

This focus on cost at the expense of customer service trickles down to the agents who are supposed to be providing the service. The attitude that good service isn’t important is magnified when agents spend the whole day talking to customers who are angry and frustrated.

It’s no wonder the customer experience is so bad.

As a customer experience consultant, I want to jump up and down and scream, and I’m not even on the phone with these people. Or at the very least, I’d like to send them a copy of my upcoming book, The Intuitive Customer. In my view, this laser focus on the bottom line is short-sighted and will, in the end, come back to haunt them.

Our research has shown that most of the factors that make up a customer’s experience and drive long-term value are emotional.  When we work with clients to design a better customer service experience, we look at the customer’s entire journey, from the moment they realize they have an issue to the point where the problem has been resolved. We may conduct customer mirrors where we pose as a customer to see what the experience is really like from the outside. And we track the emotions that are triggered along the way. With our Emotional Signature we can analyze the level of emotional engagement with customers.

Positive emotions create value for a company. Negative ones destroy it.

Unfortunately, in our customer experience consultancy we see a lot of companies that follow a policy of placing short-term cost savings over long-term value. They don’t care about customer service because, in the short term, it costs money to provide support to a customer who has already purchased a product or service.

In the long term, though, this attitude leaves customers with horrible memories that go beyond the specifics of the phone call and impact the customer’s beliefs about the company as a whole. We feel no loyalty to a company that so blatantly does not care about us. If a competitor came along and offered great customer service, many of us would switch in a heartbeat.

That’s already happening, in a minor way, as more and more people drop their cable subscriptions in favor of paid services like Netflix or Amazon Prime. And Apple recently rolled out a new iPhone upgrade program that includes an unlocked phone, yearly upgrade and AppleCare tech support and repairs – making it easier to switch cell phone providers and in some instances avoid having to call their customer service lines.

It will be interesting to see how technology evolves and whether competition will force these companies to adopt a more customer-centric business model to survive.

What do you think of these customer service tactics? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Colin Shaw is the founder and CEO of Beyond Philosophy, one of the world’s leading Customer experience consultancy & training organizations. Colin is an international author of five bestselling books and an engaging keynote speaker.

Follow Colin Shaw on Twitter & Periscope @ColinShaw_CX

Colin ShawOutrageous! How Tech Support Makes You Mad – On Purpose!