Customer Service: The Human Touch
By George Anderson
Consumers today are all too familiar with the seemingly endless gauntlet of phone prompts one must go through to get an actual customer service representative on the line. Many, if not most, do not care for it very much.
Ed Eger, executive vice president for Citi Cards, put it simply. “People are busy. They don’t really have the time to go through the computerized systems when they know they need to talk to a person,” he said.
The desire to talk to a person is behind an advertising campaign for Citigroup’s new Simplicity credit card.
According to a report in The Boston Globe, Citigroup polled consumers and found they wanted to be able to speak directly with account representatives when they had a question or problem with their card.
The desire for human interaction has many companies rethinking their prompt systems. Southwest Airlines, Bose, and L.L. Bean direct incoming calls to human representatives or provide a prompt to reach a person first.
Speaking to a person, however, raises the cost of doing a business. Estimates peg the cost of personal contact at $5 to $10 for a customer service representative to handle a call compared to 50 cents when a computer does it.
Robert Shapiro, president of the Center for Client Retention said, “Instead of viewing the call as an expense, companies should look at the interaction with their customers as
a tremendous opportunity to solve the customer’s problem, build better relationships, and secure their business for a long period of time.”
Moderator’s Comment: What is the mood of consumers when it comes to dealing with phone prompts? How do companies balance the costs and opportunities
of having a customer service representative handle a call versus using a phone prompt system?
Last night, walking through the living room, I heard my wife giggle and then say these words: “That’s my life. Spending every day I have off trying to speak
with a person to fix a problem with (names of companies).”
She had just watched a commercial for the Simplicity card where the man trying to reach a person finally gets them on his cell phone and promptly loses
the signal as the train he is traveling on goes into a tunnel. –
George Anderson – Moderator