Unsucking Customer Service

customer serviceUnless you’ve been living in a survivalist compound for the past few years, chances are you’ve purchased something.  And if you did at the point of sale (when you purchased) or if there was a problem with the purchase or payment, you’ve interacted with Customer Service.  Long hold queues, overly-complex multi-layered options, voice recognition (ack, an oxymoron) before you finally get to a customer service (another oxymoron) representative.  The suck continues.  But, must it?

To unsuck customer service requires change in 3 areas: HR, IT and Leadership.  So, this isn’t going to be easy.


Job Description – The job description of a Customer Service Rep (CSR) needs to emphasize finding solutions, developing and nuturing relationships.  Most now seem to reflect “defend our policies and reduce costs.”  Nothing is more costly than losing customers.

Compensation – This typically non-exempt position needs to have quality and satisfaction incentives.  You can make more money by taking more time with customers to listen, solve their problems and be proactive.  This is more important than number of calls handled.

Empowerment – CSRs need to have enough authority to resolve the issue to the customer’s satisfaction in ONE CALL.  And if they exceed the guidelines, examine the guidelines first, before jumping to discipline.   Better to give a customer a little more than the manual calls for than to shackle and demean them in the customer’s eye by having to ask for permission everytime they come up with a creative solution.  Creative solutions should be encouraged and the best be shared among the team.

Training – There’s a big hue and cry in public education about common core standards and teachers teaching students to pass a test, rather than to think.  I think the same is prevalent in CSR training, they handle a lot of customer complaints in a formulaic manner, much like traditional sales training for objection-handling.  CSRs need to be trained to think like the customer, be solution-driven and think about the long term effects of the customer interaction.


CSRs need to have easy access to as much customer information on ONE screen as possible. The more they can see without clicking around to different tabs, toggling in and out of different applications, the faster they can develop a solution and the more time they can spend nurturing customer relationships.  Their systems need to be as up to date, fast and reliable as those of any other department.


Customer Service is NOT a cost center.  In some cases (upselling) CSRs can generate additional revenue, but in all cases they can reduce lost revenue.  Leadership needs to invest in Customer Service like it invests in all other areas of the business.  What good is all the millions spent in R+D, Marketing, Advertising and Sales if your customers end up on hold for 20 minutes waiting to deal with someone being paid fast food wages, who could give a crap because it’s 10 minutes until their shift ends?  No matter how good your product/service is, at some point most of your customers will interact with your CSRs. If the last interaction with your company is with your CSRs, how do you think that will influence future purchases?  Two words:  Social Media

Customer Service doesn’t have to suck.  In fact, it can be great.  In my next post, I will share 3 GREAT customer service experiences I’ve had and I will NAME NAMES!  (Though my attorney son advises against it.)  Learn from the best.



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