Have you noticed the undeniable decline in customer service at almost all large institutions which serve the public? What needs to be done?
This has become apparent to me not only in dealing with the cable company, my banks ("too big to fail" but still love to collect unjustified income via fees), all major stores where Millennials (when they are not texting or talking on their phones) service customers. The worst one so far has been my experience with OptumRx, a mail-in pharmaceuticals provider owned by publicly-traded United Healthcare which exhibits incredible incompetence, duplicity and deprave indifference to Human Life, putting profits far ahead of patients. Do you think that getting these people into the spotlight (with the public and with regulatory agencies) by using quick customer surveys [ You may read more at http://douglasecastleblog.com/2014/01/05/optumrx-must-die-mailorder-pharmacy-monstrosity/ ] or petitions circulated aggressively through social media is a possible solution? The decline in customer service has actually lowered our expectation levels and has helped to destroy the international perception of our (now) service-based economy. I'd like your opinion. If you are suffering with OptumRx, which is literally making patients physiologically and emotionally sick, you might wish to fill out a quick survey. What is our best strategy, as an under served public needing better treatment?
Relative to US governmental institutions, unethical leadership influences interaction. Relative to US corporations, I observed more responsive customer relationship management due to competitive challenges.
Welcome Douglas E Castle ,
Nothing to worry about OptumRx.
Though we are in social site we must inform you that, it is a common problem and which has nice solution. For which we have to adjust our coolness and concentration.
Certain competitiors are unfair and fair, both are welcome.
Customers are suffering , it is also welcome.
Then, big institutions must not forget that an ant could finish an elephant..
Big organizations have made much mistakes which they are over looking due to over confidence.
You need to invest in our project for best solution.
So, big institutions should have to make and adopt exclusive customer service management system immediately before its too late.
If you need solution to it then you have to sign a project deal for complete solution.
You can write us in detail to our email: firstname.lastname@example.org
It seems that there is a fundamental disconnect
between the seekers of service and the providers of service.
The connection can only come when the management
of service providers truly understand the needs of their
customers, and the needs of their employees.
A skillful programme of awareness,motivation, training and coaching
can then be implimented for the employees, together
with a level of service definition for customers.
Constant monitoring of the alignment of customer and
employee expectations will, over time, create a culture
of mutual respect and satisfaction through the giving
and receiving of service.
Hi Mr. Castle,
Great topic and a very contentious issue with several organizations across the globe. This anathema has also been a challenge in several industries, including the travel industry (airlines) where passengers are not treated well.
One common way that I have visioned to solve this problem collaboratively is via crowd-ranking and rating.
This will force the vendors (large corporations) to do things that they would not otherwise choose to do so. We need to transfer the control of performance metrics from the corporation reporting it to the public (consumers) who can control them through their preferred patronage.
With the advent of technology this transfer of control and decision making powers to consumers is bound to happen soon. Question is what industries are being targeted.
Should you be interested in discussing this offline? Please let me know.
Douglas, companies need to get back to basics by hiring the right people, engaging them immediately during the on-boarding process, no short cuts in training and ensure coaching and mentoring by front line supervisor and managers.
Over the last few years investment in the people has been cut to reduce company operating expense, the result is high turnover and poor customer service delivery.
SCC Services Group
Douglas's observations truly are a problem for many large and small organizations that we deal with on a daily basis and there is no particular industry or vertical that is immune to the issue of poor customer service.
My peers have identified many solid ideas and solutions for organizations to consider but I will take a little bit different approach. I don't believe that any of the companies in their board room are saying let's deliver poor customer support because we can squeeze a few more points out of our margin. I believe that the real issue is the chaos of all the internal operational systems that have proliferated over time within their operational ecosystem.
In basic terms they store information and data in so many different systems and as some have suggested they have reduced manpower and knowledge of these systems so trying to deliver a seamless customer experience based on the information they have collected is impossible. The poor people on the front line of the services organizations have their hands tied because they have to jump between systems to try and find the answer that you are looking for, that is why the have to ask you repeatedly 'what is your name" , "what was your account again" , can I put you on hold for a minute.
I see this over and over again, I work with organizations to help them consolidate the massive amounts of important information that they are capturing so that the customer service agents can deliver contextually relevant information to their customers when and where they need it. Did you know that many of these organizations often have 20-50+ different systems that have to be navigated to find the right information. When customer service agents have a consolidated view of this information they can deliver a great customer experience to their customers. So the solution is nothing magical it is all about putting the right information in the hands of the people who can help you.
Why does this work, people go to work everyday wanting to do a good job and contribute but if they are not given the right tools to do their jobs it becomes very frustrating, which leads to attrition so that is why you are often facing inexperience people in service, if you can help people be successful internally they will begin to gain the experience and knowledge they need to answer your questions, when they don't have the answer they need a support system that can get them that answer every time, this builds confidence, confidence builds success.
These organizations need to provide contextually relevant content and put it in context to answer questions at any point of the customer journey. We live in an era of high demands and expectations on our experiences, we are also happy to share these experiences through many different social channels so companies that don't figure this out will falter, even the big ones!
There are so many factors which have led to the demise of proper service.
1.) Improper or no training.(Example-the 6 " rule is extinct & should be revived: when you see the client, 100% attention, head up, phone down & smile with a greeting)
2.) Tenure in some places has resulted in people knowing they can't be fired, so they don't bother to be amenable.(no motivation-no accountability!)
3.) outsourcing to other countries added the slippery slope of polite answers from manuals, but no actual rectifying service.
4.) Too much media exposure-has rendered rude behavior "entertaining" & somehow, has become a mark of individual entitlement.
5.) Of course, it goes without saying, that if the only incentive is money, without pride in accomplishment, there can be no excellence in service.
My goodness, I could go on, but this is a good place to kickstart!
Hmm... I'm pretty surprised by the length of responses on this question. This is a pretty simple and straightforward issue.
1) Companies do this because they can. Like any other part of their business, they will trim and cut costs (both by head count and skills-by-salary) as far as they can get away with. So long as it's not stopping you from doing business with them, they've got no incentive or motivation to change.
2) The best strategy is to stop giving them money. Take business elsewhere. If there's nowhere to turn and you think that better service will draw business, then start that business. This is exactly what a free economy expects/demands of it's participants. Also consider http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dollar_voting
This is a universal phenomenon, not only USA. I live in EU, Switzerland to be exact and have lived in Finland and done a lot of business with many other countries.
In my opinion this is about leadership. Companies today have all kind of employee assessment systems, but people are not lead by example. Show me one leader (company CEO) who really leads from the front! Only in some SMEs this is still the case, but even in these ones people hide behind processes and common sense does not prevail. Companies must make money, but leaders must show by example that it is not only done in short term, it must be a long term approach.
Industiral companies are analyzed by banks who use people coming out the school writing "analyst reports" that do not make any sense, certified public accountants have huge disclaimers. Very few leaders stand up and say we do it differently and we really put customer first.
People learn fast. So if you teach a team to be polite and care for the high standards than it will happen. It is also how you deal with your team. If you hire a team of customer reps and treat them as "I just don't give a damn" - they wont either.
The problem starts with the supervisors and the one person that is affecting team and causes chaos.If one person can do what he pleases and can get away with murder (as the supervisor's favourite), than it will stat creating unhealthy environment.
If you have an insider in one particular company, and she/he can provide you with direct names of supervisors/managers, than you should go public with that info.
Lets face it - it all starts with top managers. The more we treat regular workers as cheap labor and disrespect them, the more it will backfire. They are no worst or better than us.
Training is critical to customer service. Many companies don't want to spend the necessary time and resources on training individuals for customer service positions and usually hire individuals at low salaries who don't have the necessary skills or education for a customer service position. The turnover in these positions is high because of the lack of training and low wages.
I have to challenge the idea that customer service is vanishing everywhere. I now live in Turkey and am always struck by the high levels of customer service here. What it did highlight to me was the low levels of customer service in the so called developed world so I studied this quite extensively.
I wondered why businesses here remember my size from my last visit three months before, why an under-quote leads to the business taking the hit, why a business will jump in their car and go to get product to immediately fulfil a bulk order; why errors in construction are immediately remedied at no cost to the consumer; why even health problems are treated fast, efficiently and cheaply as an individual.
What I discovered has led to what I now call the alternative business model. I find people that are content to earn enough to put a roof over their family's head, food on the table and to care for their employees. These are a people that work to live rather than live to work; a people that believe that doing good to people is part of their need to give to others rather than simply making a credit card donation to a charity; a society where the lack of cut throat competition means that similar businesses set up next to each other rather than miles apart and where they believe they will be punished if they damage their neighbour.
This is also a society where people are proud to get one of the annual local or national awards for being a top tax payer and where people figure much higher on their importance scale than material wealth.
In short, this business model still recognises that their business is about serving customers rather than customers being the raw materials for a conveyor belt process designed to extract money from them in the quickest, cheapest and most efficient way. Unfortunately I see little evidence that 'developed' countries will try and learn from others and that customer complaints will continue to be considered as an overhead rather than free market research.
This is perhaps the best question I have ever seen on mosaicHUB, so I couldn't resist providing a perspective.
Every organization provides either a PRODUCT or a SERVICE or some combination of both. Customer Service is viewed as a "cost center' in almost all cases, but especially in very large organizations.
In general, most companies are very, very good at producing their SERVICE or PRODUCT quite efficiently. The core revenue is the PRODUCT/SERVICE, so the focus is "how to we get this into the market as quickly and seamlessly as possible". Customer Service is taken into consideration as an after thought and an annoying one at that. Focusing on crafting excellent Customer Service can transform a company's bottom line. Here's how:
Understand how humans (the customers) actually interact with the product/service within the full life cycle of the other "things" related to why they bought it in the first place. The product/service will most likely be one component of a series of tasks/steps or "stuff" they deal with or use often. Position education, training, general information and awareness around this "workflow". Once that is done, the customer can better handle the use of the product and issues themselves. In addition, the same level of awareness and training can improve the savvy of the customer support too.
Change the attitude of the company. Engage the customer and view every communication as an opportunity to better the service/product, give customers help/support, protect and grow BRAND, sow the seeds of repeat business or referral sales and take market share. Proper Corporate Culture can make all of these things happen in one fell swoop.
LONG TERM RECURRING REVENUE vs COST CENTER
For the CFO, accountants, budget guardians and other financial stakeholders, look at Customer Service as "long term revenue", "product/service refinement" and a "wealth of innovation". All of these can be modeled and forecasted over months and years with real bottom line value. Don't be myopic and short term focused only.
Focusing on the above impacts brand, market share and staying power for any company. So, as you can see there is a lot of room for companies to adopt a different mindset and tweak their approach to Customer Service in order to better serve customers, which ultimately becomes a means to better serve themselves and the all important bottom line.
Douglas, I share some of your concerns. Though I would not disparage the many committed and hard working Millennials that I work with. The problem with customer service is much more systemic and the fault lies clearly with senior management. The rise of the IVR is part of a general policy to move the cost of service to the customer. Wasting my time costs them very little. Often times the choice to buy elsewhere when faced with poor customer service is difficult. Verizon only keeps my business because the other cellular carriers have such poor coverage. Comcast I will leave as soon as I find an viable alternative. My bank implemented Mobile Check Deposit, but set the limit so low I cannot deposit my paycheck. It took a call to Investor Relations to get a response from Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield. In some industries, management has made a clear decision that customers can be abused and with little impact on customer turnover.
In more competitive industries, companies like Schwab have excellent service. They know their customers can move. For me, I will be off Verizon in March and hope to have my Comcast switched by the end of the summer. Not saving much money but I hate paying for purposeful disrespect.
1. Patronize companies that provide excellent customer service. Let the market speak. This is stronger than any petition.
2. See this as an opportunity to provide excellent customer service in your own company, and thus gain a firm competitive advantage over larger corporations that do a lousy job.
If you don't like Optum, get your prescriptions filled elsewhere. Go to your local pharmacy run by a real human being.
But Optum has the lowest prices, you say. Well, that's your predicament. Low prices vs. good customer service.
Many large companies do a very good job. Two of my favorites are Costco and Apple.
Your post seems mainly to be a rant against Optum, but I'm answering it as if it's a business question.
I most certainly have noticed this 'effect'. Natascha Xu mentions Accountability, and I agree that is probably a factor.
In this instance, I can only answer from my experiences within the UK (although there is a 'global reach' in terms of Customer Services which are outsourced).
In part, the clear decline in Educational standards is to blame. The Use of English (for which I had to take an Examination in 1964) is now appalling - and I regret that I have to concur with my (late) Father's comments that "It's down to the adoption of Americanisms". For example, if I get something wrong, I would apologise (again, not common in today's culture) and say "I'm sorry - that was my fault". But now that terrible, grammar-less American term "my bad" has arisen. "My bad what ?" Left foot ? "Arthritis ?" "Appalling English ?"
I 'wage war' on the ignorant telephone question "What was the name ?". I respond "Well, I haven't changed it in the last 10 minutes, so it's still Peter Hartley !".
There is also a Laziness Culture, and that is where I really get 'stuck in'. When I hear "I don't know", in situations where the person SHOULD know, I am apt to say "Why not ? Isn't that your Job, to know ? Or can you find someone who DOES know ?"
I constantly remind people that 'What they put up with, is what they LIVE with'.
Now I'm going to give a specific example: I moved house in 2010, and bought a property which offered me an opportunity to Develop and Improve. (A Widower, at age 64 at the time, with a decent Life Expectancy, it seemed like a Good Idea.) In 2011, there was a strange sewage issue. In 2012, my back garden received sewage, courtesy of Thames Water, when the heavy rain flooded the Sewers locally. Apparently, this had been occurring for over 20 years, but no one had got a Resolution. Discovering that Thames Water had a 'Customer Service Department' that simply acted as a barrier, I contacted the Consumer Council for Water - and now there is a major investigation ongoing, with my MP involved. I also made the front page of the local Newspaper twice. Presently, I refuse to sign a Thames Water document that would give away my Rights under Common Law (Contract Law is part of my expertise). On Friday 31st January, I will attend Meeting No. 4 with Thames Water, Southern Water, my MP, and other affected local Residents. And I will have some HARD questions for Thames Water - which, if not responded to properly, will appear not only in the Local Press, but also the National Press (and on a TV programme for which I have already been interviewed).
In simple terms - Don't put up with inadequate 'Service' ... Complain, with a Loud Voice.
If you don't, then you get the (appalling) service you deserve. Only YOU can stand up for Decent Service ... there's no magical fairy who will wave a wand and sort it for you.
(Incidentally - if I find a Service Provider uses an Overseas Customer Service Department - I simply change Service Provider. 'Vote with your feet'.)
Remember: "What you put up with, is what you LIVE with".
I completely agree. Several months ago, I addressed the problem with exact solutions that should work in many cases for a vast variety of businesses. Take a look if you are interested:
Nothing unexpected here and it is not a 2010 phenomenon. It is simple economics, and for the same reasons everyone used to criticize the cable companies in the 2000s (enter Dishnet), auto companies in the 1980s (enter Toyota), the phone company in the 1970s and the railroads in the 1910s.
Successful competitors eventually dominate the field, and when you are down to a few large suppliers the consumer's choices are limited and you now have an oligarchy and not a "free market". The players seek to increase profits (or, more specifically, to pay bigger bonuses regardless of shareholder value - think GM) and do so by cutting staff, delaying payments, reducing quality. As long as market share and net profit are not impacted (because the consumer cannot change gears) this will continue.
What should "we" do? Not "we", but "you". Don't count on government action - it will only make things worse, because it will not be able to limit itself to leveling the playing field, and the more it gets involved then more the crony capitalism will emerge.
If you believe more people are upset about bad service than they are about paying higher prices, then you should start a company offering premium service at a premium price. The track record shows that despite the grumbling the consumers' criteria are actually convenience, inventory and price, but there are plenty of businesses conditioned on the premise that people will pay more for a better experience (Starbucks being Exhibit A).
I have found few large companies that can give the kind of service people love to receive.
Most customers enjoy personal service, with reps that remember what they ordered, their special requirements, how they can add to what they have already ordered....it's the personal that is missing with many large companies.
Good customer service is easy....it is the little things that comprise it.
Follow up on orders, to make sure your customers are satisfied, ask them how you can assist them further, give them special offers,.....all of these and others which you can customize to your industry and to them......
These little things can result in repeat business, referrals, etc. all of which enable you to grow.