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What you can do about the Which? top service irritations (and to calm the nerves of your CEO)

I woke on Wednesday morning to find that Which? had just released the results of its latest polls that rank 100 of the UK's biggest brands for service along with their customers' top service irritations. And, Good Morning Britain had picked it up as one of their lead stories.
Whenever I see national news stories about service my first thought is always for those on the call centre frontline who are asked to do battle daily with people, processes and technology. Often, armed only with underinvestment and hope. This time I thought that maybe I could help a little, as well as sympathise.
So, thanks to complaining about service being a national past time (and those smart folks in the UK media realising this and giving every story about bad service huge amounts of coverage) any moment now your CEO may send you an email asking you to explain what you're doing to combat the threat of the Which? top service irritations. And, most importantly, spare them a damaging media excuse / apology statement. Or, worse still, an appearance on the Good Morning Britain couch next to Susanna Reid.
Which Customer Service Irritations
Top 5 customer service irritations. Source: Which
In their latest research Which? found 5 main service irritations. Four of the five are things that we've helped many of the UK's biggest brands with. Here's my advice on what to put in your action plan, and how to calm that nervous CEO:

1. Automated telephone systems
Over the last year we've worked exclusively with Nigel Clarke at Please Press 1 getting to understand the data in his Phone Rage Index. One of the biggest annoyances for callers is the length of time it takes for them to get through systems. To cut this time think about:
  • Using speech recognition rather than touch tone IVR technology if there are likely to be lots of routing options. Or, when service applications are complex.
  • Putting the most frequently chosen options at the beginning of menus. That way you'll serve more customers quicker.
  • Removing duplicated greetings and messages that are put in for compliance purposes such as 'your calls may be recorded for training purposes' etc.
  • Simplifying and shortening compliance messages (or putting them elsewhere if you can).
  • Limiting the number of options and menus you have. And, accepting that to improve service your costs are going to increase as advisors are going to need to redirect some calls.
Finally, regularly check your IVR for dead-ends. There's nothing quite so annoying as making a selection and being cut off, or finding out that a number no longer exists.

2. Transfers
Check which options on your IVR create the most transfers. And, take a listen to some of these transferred calls to find out if customers are making the wrong choices because of the language used in prompts, or, because of your IVR menu structure.

3. Annoying queue and hold music
Look out for some more research from us on the subject of music later this year, but for now:
  • Consider using popular music, research shows that it positively affects customer attitudes in some circumstances. You'll need a licence for this. But, it's not as expensive as you may think and we can simplify the process for you. Match your music to your wait time and customer demographics too.
  • Let customers know where they are in the queue or how long their wait time is likely to be. Once again, research shows it's what they most want to hear whilst waiting.
  • Think about including some engaging information like answers to FAQs during wait times. You may even be able to answer some questions whilst callers are waiting.
  • Avoid anything played on a Stylophone and this, the worst on-hold music we've ever heard!
5. Rude staff
As well as listening to what your advisors say, listen to how they say it, or their 'Tone of Voice'. Last year we presented research at Call Centre Expo that showed C-Sat scores could be increased by 74% by improving advisor Tone of Voice. Then, think about a ToV improvement programme that targets this one particular area of your advisors’ interactions.

Out of interest we've completed our own poll on customer irritations as well. In the study we've looked at what those annoyances are. But, we've also broken it down by channel covering the phone, retail and on-line. Look out for it in the coming weeks.
As always, if you'd like to find out more about any of what I've suggested here drop me an email at frances@soh.co.uk Or, give us a call.
by Fran. September 2014.

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