Ever been placed on hold for a customer service helpline only to speak to someone who must pass you off to yet another representative? Some of my recent good ol’ brick and mortar shopping trips haven’t been very promising on the customer service front either. Thankfully we can find some reassurance in knowing that we aren’t alone based on results of a recent Consumer Reports study.
This report shows that during the past 12 months 64 percent of respondents had left a store because of poor service and 67 percent had hung up on customer service without having had their problem addressed. So if in-store reps and phone reps can’t fulfill needs, where should a troubled consumer turn? Online seems the obvious choice, but the study shows only 2 percent of people prefer live chat and even fewer prefer email.
So we’ve run the course.
- Phones: we’ve likely hung up without the appropriate answer (and there’s the inharmonious breaks in the elevator-like hold music for those monotone recordings about how important your call is, obviously, to add salt to those wounds)
- Face-to-Face: we’ve probably walked out if making the extra trip was even in the picture.
- Live chat: as if it isn’t hard enough to get a suitable response to an issue lets add the miscommunications of short-hand conversation. Plus, didn’t the AIM craze die out with the boybands?
- Email: this doesn’t fulfill our need-to-know-RIGHT-now desires. A report from STELLAService shows the average email reply time for Top 100 retailers is 17 hours.
The next resort would be to surf the web for forums, blogs etc regarding the answers needed. As Jennifer pointed out in her latest entry, user-generated information cannot always be trusted. Let’s not lose sight of the fact that brand loyalty hinges on maintaining that relationship beyond the initial transaction. If I’ve exhausted all of the brand’s resolutions with no positive results, I’m not too keen on buying into that brand in the future. More likely since I’ve already located a sounding board for the product concern, I’m going to tell others how bad my experience was with the brand. Due to the far-reaching and quick dissemination of information via social networks, one nasty tweet could easily turn into a PR nightmare. Companies need to seek out user-generated content based on their brand/products and take appropriate action to resolve issues (or just take an interest if not needing to respond to negativity).
For pharma brands customer service is even more imperative. As a report from Medical, Marketing & Media (MM&M) indicates with healthcare, people are even more sensitive in regards to trusting other consumers. Forty-five percent of consumers who read another’s post about a problem they experienced with a medication want a third party to validate it and 55 percent look to the pharmaceutical companies to verify information about side effects. With regulation ambiguity on opening up brand-sponsored content in a social aspect for pharma companies, it is hard to have an online presence that allows sharing among customers in a moderated format. Thus the healthcare industry should strive to be the best among all for customer service because too easily a customer could find themselves out of trusted resources and turning to other online avenues. Remind your customer service reps about their importance and make sure they are constantly training. Until the day when everything is answered on the first call through a helpline, you should empower your staff across all departments to seek out and take action on issues found in online communities.