My next door neighbor is 86 years old. She’s in great physical shape and her mind is as sharp as can be. She’s fun to be around and I’m lucky to have her as a neighbor. She doesn’t understand modern technology, so she occasionally calls me for help with the tech in her house, usually her phone. As you can probably imagine, she likes to keep things simple, so she still uses a standalone answering machine instead of using Century Link’s online voicemail service. She specifically requested that they turn off their voicemail service.
She recently changed her phone plan with Century Link. The change she requested had nothing to do with voicemail, but when they made the change, they turned on voicemail on her line. They didn’t ask her about it. They didn’t tell her they were going to do it. They just did it. After a couple days, she noticed that she wasn’t getting messages on her answering machine and she heard a strange, pulsing dialtone when she tried to make a call. (You and I know that means she has voice messages, but she didn’t understand that.) She called Century Link and, after going through a long IVR tree, she finally got connected to someone in customer care. The rep explained how to use Century Link’s voicemail system, but didn’t grasp that my neighbor simply wanted to use her machine. That’s when she called me.
I went to her house and called Century Link. The support rep explained that switching on voicemail was automatic. I explained that, automatic or not, it was confusing to my neighbor. The tech support rep then transferred me to customer support, but I got disconnected during the transfer. (Is this sounding familiar?) I called back and, after going through the long IVR tree once again, finally got a human on the line who was able to turn off the voicemail service.
Wow, that was a ridiculous story about a poorly designed system that caused unneeded stress and frustration for a senior citizen who simply wanted things to work the way they were supposed to work! It sounds to me like a system that was designed for the convenience of the company, not the consumer, and support reps who couldn’t or wouldn’t put themselves in the customer’s position.
When your system makes changes that affect the customer, make sure they know about the change. Never assume the customer understands the jargon of your industry. When dealing with a customer, make sure to listen closely to clearly understand what they’re saying. Listen more than you speak. Be sure to let your boss or the system designers know when those systems cause problems for customers. When you transfer a customer to another person or department, stay on the line to make sure your valued customer doesn’t get lost in your phone system. As always, to provide the best customer service, put yourself in the customer’s position. What would you want if you were in their situation?
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