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Customer Expectations: Speeding Out of Control?

Posted on  6 September 11  by 

Comment (2)

“People seem to want everything these days, and if we can’t/won’t/shouldn’t give it to them, they go ballistic.”

“Some customers call us still angry from their last issue and what they’re seeking feels less like resolution, and more like revenge!”

“We’ve got customers who think they’re smarter than our reps. And I think some of them actually ARE!”

At CCC, we’ve detected a distinct shift in the landscape  – a page-turn to a new chapter in our relationship with customers.  They’re becoming more demanding, or worse, even unrealistic about what to expect from us.

It’s the dawning of a new era, and it’s one we’ve all seen coming for some time:

  • The distant past (the 1990′s) was most notable for the move toward greater economic efficiency in customer service.  That was The Productivity Era. Whatever we could do to resolve issues more quickly (reducing AHT, increasing FCR) was the focus of a successful CS operation.
  • Then, in the recent past (the 2000′s) we saw a move toward an increasing emphasis on greater quality in our interactions with customers – The Quality 1.0 Era.  As more and more simple issues were now able to be handled WITHOUT the need for a live rep (IVR, web self-service) then the remaining live calls we did take were, therefore, more complex and required a higher-quality personal interaction.
  • Now, here we are in the 2010′s and AGAIN, something is different. But this shift isn’t so much about technology or the complexity of customer issues (although these are contributing factors). The biggest difference is the nature of our customers themselves. We’re in a new phase:  The Quality 2.0 Era.  Here are some examples we’ve heard lately that point to this shift:

Some customers have more experience in issue resolution than your reps.
Picture a well-educated customer (lawyer, doctor, professor) who has been an active consumer of your company’s products for 10+ years. What happens when that customer is having a (heated) dispute with a part-time hourly rep who has 6 months experience? It degenerates into a verbal mismatch that ultimately results in a victory for neither side.

Customers are much better at “playing the game.”
We’ve been hearing that some companies are reporting an alarming increase in “pre-escalations” — customers demanding to speak to a supervisor before they even begin to describe their issue to the frontline rep who answered their call. Clever…but annoying!

Customers are issuing threats and ultimatums (correct word is probably ultimata, but c’mon!).
I have a good friend who is — let’s just be kind and say — a VERY ACTIVE customer/consumer. She is definitely smart (-er than most reps) and she told me about a recent experience with a telecom company:  At the height of frustration over her latest unresolved issue, she boldly declared to the rep, “Stop telling me what you can’t do.  And please understand that the very next thing you say will determine whether I will ever be a customer of your company for the rest of my life.”

What do you think that rep said? Exactly what he was trained to say, “I’m sorry ma’am, that’s not something we handle — again, you’re gonna have to call our technical support number and see if they can help you.” Bottom line:  My friend is now counting the days to the end of her contract, and has a new provider all lined up to handle her entire family’s business from then on.

But there IS hope. We’d love to share some of the solutions we’ve seen to relieve these growing frustrations.  Join us for one of our live full-day seminars, or upcoming “virtual” events on the topic of “The Next Frontier of Rep Performance.” We’ll reveal clear evidence that the way you manage your reps — and the work environment you create — can have a significant impact on improving rep performance in this Quality 2.0 Era of customer service.

HOW ABOUT YOU:  What evidence are YOU seeing that customers are acting differently, and in some cases, unreasonbly?

Comments from the Network (2)

  1. Gretchen Miller
    on September 8, 2011

    Don’t we want educated customers? And isn’t having an agent restricted to what they can’t do incredibly frustrating for ANY customer? Yes, there will always be difficult calls and difficult customers (I can be one, myself), but isn’t the best way to handle that to empower the agent, and train them on what they CAN do, as opposed to CAN’T? (e.g., I can transfer you to tech support, where they can help you better/more fully than I can. I appreciate your time, and want to help you get your problem resolved.)

  2. kit hamilton
    on September 21, 2011

    Thanks for this post – customers do seem to be getting less patient, perhaps because some notable service leaders have set the bar very high for the rest of companies out there.
    Pitney Bowes recently did a study that looks at trust as a driver of loyalty – and found that a) trust is critically important and b) customer self-service and communications are essential to building and keeping that trust.
    You may want to take a look:

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