The spaghetti approach to customer communication.
Many organizations, in their quest to provide their customers with cost effective e-solutions, are allocating their best and brightest people to building on-line systems and apps, and engaging with customers via social media or on-line chats. Older operating systems and staff in call centers, and those dealing with customers by email, are neglected.
Often in their rush to get the new technologies on board, the new on-line systems and apps are not thoroughly tested, before the older operating systems are turned off. Nor are staff in call centers, stores or head office trained to help customers who cannot use the new on-line systems for whatever reason.
So instead of having an organization with systems, processes, technologies and people aligned to support a customer, many companies in the transition phase between on-line and off-line operating systems, are developing misaligned 'spaghetti systems.' These misaligned systems:
- Frustrate, and confuse customers.
- Destroy the company's brand.
- Increase operating cost structures.
- Employ more people who achieve less. Employ more managers to manage the increased staff component and add to the confusion.
- Ensure that customers not only don't want to do business with them, but share their frustrating customer experiences with the organization on social media.
- Reduce the likelihood of future sales.
My encounter with a local Telecom company illustrates how a misalignment of systems, processes and people in a company affect customer experience. The company in question had just paid its executives millions in bonuses for " grabbing a tired, bloated business and making it competitive." They had done this by investing in multiple new technologies. What they failed to do, is to check how their new technologies combined with older systems, affect customer experience.
The company offered a range of communication options to their customers. A website. On-line processes and tools. On-line chats. Emails. Call centers. Twitter. Facebook. Physical stores. So my expectation was that the process of canceling an old ADSL line would take around 20 minutes of my time using any one of these communication channels.
I told my friends that I was going to cancel my account at the Telecom. They responded "Good luck with that." I tried to ignore the warnings on twitter, facebook and websites thinking the process of dealing with a company couldn't be that bad. I was wrong. It was far worse than I could have ever imagined.
What I learned from my experience with this Telecom, are 12 ways you can destroy your company's reputation as you move your company online.
1. Your website.
- Don’t have clear instructions on your website on how to communicate with the company based on what the customer may need to do. e.g. Query a bill, close an account.
- Provide incorrect information on your website about location of your stores, or incorrect phone numbers and email addresses for stores or head office departments.
- Don’t provide a way via your website for your customers to speak to any managers or directors. Ensure those important people are kept away from customer complaints. They don’t need to know when their systems fail or their brand is being destroyed.
2. On-line tools.
- Insist your customer goes through a multi-step process of both on-line and off-line follow ups, before they can use your on-line tools. Get them to:
- Register on-line.
- Fill in a one time password.
- Check their phone or email to confirm the password and key in a code online.
- Link their account to their registration.
- Ensure that they can’t actually link their account to the registration. Give them error messages, but don’t provide a way of working around the error messages. Don't provide an easy way for them to resolve the issue. Get them to phone, email and tweet before you insist they go into a physical store to link their account. Don't tell them that only some of your stores can help them.
3. On-line chat.
Provide an on-line chat service, but don’t have anyone manning the service or answering the chats. Or better still. Automate the service so that when the client asks a question, they receive a reply that doesn't address their issue at all.
4. Physical stores.
- Have a number of different types of stores under your brand. Don’t tell the customer that only some stores can help them with certain issues.
- When they get to the only type of store that can help them, tell the customer that you still cannot help them. Tell them they must use the on-line service. When they say they cannot use the on-line service because they cannot link their accounts to their on-line registration, repeat as a mantra. "Use the on-line service. We cannot help you here."
- When they are unhappy that their problem isn't being resolved, tell them to escalate the issue as a complaint. Don't tell them that you know that the escalation emails you provide them with are never read, and the escalation phone numbers are never answered.
- When they insist on escalating the issue in-store, ignore them. Let them wait in the store as you serve other customers, and refuse to help them further - because they haven't listened to you.
- When they have waited for over an hour in-store, and they cannot get help either from staff, or from phoning head office, and insist you help them, either ignore them, or tell them that they are behaving badly, and threaten to call security.
On your website, either don't list the email addresses customers may need to resolve common problems, or ensure your staff ignore all emails. Or better still, return all emails to the sender automatically.
Don’t train the people manning your twitter account how to resolve customer problems. Encourage them to tell people to go to your store where they won't be helped, or better still, encourage them to email an address that no-one responds to.
7. Head office.
At the store tell them that you can escalate their query to head office. Tell them they can't just speak immediately to head office, but they must wait for someone from head office to call them. Then train the person from head office to take an hour to make the call, and when they do, tell them not to solve the customers problem. Rather repeat the mantra. You must use our on-line system, and no, we cannot help you link your account, so that you are able to use the on-line system.
Ensure that when phoning, your automated system puts the customer into an endless loop. Never answer the call. Or if you do, tell the customer they are in the wrong department and you can’t help them. Tell them to phone the same number again. Then hang up as they call.
9. Complaints process
Advertise a complaints process in all your stores and on-line But don't respond to complaints. Provide numerous phone numbers, Twitter accounts and facebook accounts for customers to escalate problems to. But when they use these - just ignore them. Eventually they will go away - for good.
10. Ensure none of your communication media align.
Best of all, ensure your communication media don’t align. If your website insists on on-line cancellations, and it doesn’t work, and your twitter people insist customers go into a store, ensure your store staff insist the customer must go on-line. Ensure that the email addresses provided by your call center are returned to your customers - unread. Then give them other emails, and ensure no email is ever read or answered. Keep your customers guessing as they move from communication channel to communication channel, with only a clue as to who could possibly help them. Let them experience the joys of spaghetti systems.
11. Text or sms
Provide a number for tex or sms. But respond with gobbledygook gook. e.g. in response to a question that begins with "How do I?" respond with "Dear customer the information you provided is invalid. Please download our app."
12. The app.
Download the app? I can't wait!