I recently had one of the most frustrating customer experiences ever. I was trying to cancel a hotel reservation and called the customer service number. I was asked to input my confirmation number only to be told that my reservation could not be found. Then there was a long silence. I, of course, thought that would get me to a person. Wrong! I was asked to enter another number since that one did not work. What other number? I only had the number which I got from the confirmation email I received. At this point, I could not do anything. There were no options to speak to a living being with the capability to think and discern so I hung up wondering what to do next. (Please hear this all you automated service supporters: automated systems can’t think and make decisions to help you, they are programmed only for black and white….and life my friends is not black and white.)
Once I got myself back together, I called again thinking that I must have missed an option. This time I went through the same steps but somehow, in one of the long pauses, a real live person appeared. When I explained, they asked for my confirmation number. I gave them the same number I had typed in earlier. The guy typed away and then said, “I can’t seem to locate it. Oh, hold on, there is a slight computer issue. Can you call back in an hour or so?” My jaw dropped. “You mean you can’t take my information and when the system comes back on line cancel it for me?” The reply was even more striking, “No, I don’t have anything to write with and they don’t allow us to do this anyway.” (Please hear this all you controlling managers: empower your people to think and actually help people or you might as well not have people at all.)
Now you tell me, is this service? Is this how it should be? I am now in a position of having to do more work. I have to wait, call back, and go through all of this again. How is this service? (By the way, the customer working is the diametric opposite of service.)
What is the lesson here? First, automated service is rarely service at all. Second, if you won’t let your people provide service, what’s the point?
Here is a solution. How about getting back to human beings helping other human beings and giving them the training and tools to do it? Simple.