Outsourcing and Customer Service Thoughts…

Over this past week I had some interesting (to me any way) experiences related to customer service and some of the general business risks of outsourcing…

1) Do your outsourced vendors use the current customer information?
A few weeks ago I got a call from someone representing my casualty insurance company. He said he was verifying the information for our policies; types of vehicles, residence information, etc. He was a very pleasant guy, but he was asking to verify information that was from around 1 – 2 years ago. I thought it was odd, because I get a quarterly statement that lists all the details of my policies, and they have been correct. Earlier this week I got a call from my insurance agent, whom I have known and used for insurance coverage for several years.
“I just wanted to apologize for that call you got! I am so embarrassed…I don’t know where he got the old information, but it is making me look like a bumbling idiot! I hired a vendor to call and confirm all the information on all my policy holders, and now I’m having to call everyone and let them know their policies have always been up-to-date!”
And she continued to talk and apologize for the next several minutes. She spent more time talking to me than her hired vendor who had called me a few weeks ago.
She had set him up with access to the insurance company’s (a very large organization) system to access the policy information that he had used for the verification calls. It sounds like they set him up with access to the wrong, outdated files…perhaps some archived files?
Moral of the story? Or at least questions she should ask when considering outsourced vendors next time…

  • Will hiring a vendor really same time, and money, over doing the task yourself?
  • How can you ensure that they are using the current information?
  • What kind of impact will it have on your business if they tell the wrong information to your customers?

2) Does your automated call response system put your customers into a virtual hell loop?
I mentioned a few weeks ago that I had gotten a 1-month T-Mobile account so I could just stay in town and work at a near-by coffee shop while my sons were at their various day camps for 4 – 5 hours each day and save gas. Today I called to cancel my account; there was not an online option to cancel, which bugged me. So, I looked at the contract I got when I signed up for the service and called the phone number it indicated. After going through a voice automated system, which did not have any options for any type of Internet HotSpot services, I finally got to a live person. When I explained that I wanted to cancel the service, she said, “Oh, I’ll connect you to the area that does that,” and after a bit of muzak I was connected to a voice automated system…the same one I had just gone through!
Okay…fine…I get to a live person after going through all the automated rigamarole…again…and quite oddly, the volume of the sound had been decreased by around 1/3. As soon as I mentioned the word HotSpot she did not wait to hear more and connected me to…that same maddening voice automated system!!!
Okay, I need to take a different tactic with the human element…
Once more, after an interesting muzak interpretation of Tequila (I loved playing that way back when I was in a jazz band…this version made my ears cry) I was once more connected with a real person…once more the volume had decreased by around 1/3 and I could barely hear her. First I told her, actually yelled at her so she could hear me, to please not connect me to another area until I had a chance to tell her my whole story. “What?” she asked, “I can barely hear you.” I told her that I could barely hear her also. And so, after an almost shouting exchange, I was able to tell her my phone number, I hung up and she called me back. Jeannie (I think was her name) was now back to full volume, and she said I was also. She was very nice and finally got my service cancelled.
The voice response system, though, really made me frustrated, and frankly makes me want to avoid doing business with the company again, and even though Jeannie was very nice, the other two no-name-reps were quick to pass me off to somewhere else. And that volume descreasing thing was very strange…you’d think a telecommunications company would not have a faulty voice response system.
Moral of the story? If you are going to replace direct human contact with automated voice systems, do thorough, and ongoing, quality control to ensure they are actually working to ENHANCE customer service, not to DIMINISH service and drive your customers away! And also make sure your customer service rep training is effective; bad attitudes from the people your customers finally talk to will also drive business away.
3) Does your company do such great customer service that your customers want to blog about how great it is? 🙂
I like to run, and try to get in around 20 – 25 miles per week. Not that much compared to many, I know, but it seems to be enough to keep my brain synapses sparking and my heart strong. I usually get new running shoes after around 600 – 800 miles (I know, the experts say to get them at half that distance, but hey, I’m frugal). I’ve been using Zappos to get my shoes, and the shoes for my family, for the past several years. They have great customer service, they have free returns, from what I’ve been able to tell their site is well-secured, and it seems they go out of their way to make their customers happy.
Yesterday I realized I needed some new running shoes, so I put in an order at around 6:00pm. I chose the free shipping option (5 – 8 business days). I was so surprised this morning to see an email from Zappos, that was sent to me at 10:30pm last night, indicating that since I had been such a good long-time customer that they had gone ahead and shipped my shoes via overnight delivery! I was so surprised to see, well before noon, the UPS truck drive in with my new running shoes, which I just finished wearing for a very nice 5+ mile run…my feet felt so much better with the new shoes and great support! It’s funny how you don’t notice the support slowly going out of your shoes until you put on a new pair and then realize it…
But the point is, their outstanding, going beyond expectations, customer service was such a nice surpise! Will I go back to them for shoes again? You bet! 🙂
Moral of the story? Protect your customers’ personal information, and go above and beyond your customers’ expectations in service, and you will be well on the road to having a very successful business.

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