42% would rather clean the toilet than call customer service
It’s been over four years since I read a stat published by Aspect that prompted me to write about this exact topic, the choice to clean the toilet or contact customer service. Since then we have started to conduct our own annual customer service research and this year we have decided to return to this interesting and comical question. Besides, I say comicaland while the question is funny, the answer is anything but.
So we surveyed over 1,000 consumers and asked them, “Would you rather clean the toilet than call customer service?” Forty-two percent of them answered: “Yes, I prefer to clean the toilets. It wasn’t as surprising as it was disappointing.
Is calling customer support really so terrible that the idea of cleaning the toilets is more appealing? It’s if you’ve been the victim of long waits that waste your time, talking to people you may not understand, not getting the answer you think is the right one, dealing with agents who lack the power to make decisions, being transferred multiple times, possibly being disconnected and having to start over, and other inadequate levels of customer service and support.
Here’s the interesting thing. I’ve asked a few people independently if they’d rather clean a toilet or call customer service, and the “toilet cleaners” admitted that it’s not that customer service is always bad, it’s just that when it’s it is, it’s really, really bad. So much so that toilet cleaning is more appealing. (And it probably takes less time too!)
It’s not that all customer service and support experiences are so bad, but when they are, it can overshadow the positive ones.
So what can a business or brand do? If you do it well, keep doing it. Don’t worry about the laggards that make this stat “interesting.” They just make you look better. That said, here’s a “Top Ten List” on how to avoid being considered worse than toilet cleaning:
1. Be friendly and knowledgeable: When we asked what was most important to customers, the top two answers were about friendly, knowledgeable people. How difficult is it? Be nice and have the answers, or at least know where to find the answers.
2. To be coherent: Remind your employees that consistency and predictability are key to creating an exceptional customer service experience. In other words, still be friendly and knowledgeable. Although employees don’t have to have the same personalities, they all need to have the same tireless and reliable dedication to taking care of their customers.
3. Being better than average: You don’t have to go “too far” to create an amazing experience. Be just a tiny bit better than average. This can take the form of a positive attitude, a good sense of humor (if applicable), use of the client’s name, and other small moments or experiences that have a positive impact. There will be opportunities for “exaggerated” experiences, but they will not occur with every call. It is the emergencies and the big problems that set the stage for the “overdone” resolutions.
4. Shorten the hold time: Customers don’t like to wait on hold, no matter how good the “music on hold” is. Putting customers on hold for an unreasonable amount of time sends a negative message that you don’t value their time. Instead, let them know how long the wait time will be and give them the option of a callback. The price of this technology has come down and is more affordable than ever.
5. First call resolution: The goal is for the customer to call only once. Customers get frustrated when they have to call back for the same issue. This could cause customers to question the abilities of people working for the company. It erodes trust.
6. Transfer once: If you need to transfer, it should only be once. You can escalate a customer’s issue to a higher support level or supervisor, just make sure it’s the right person. Multiple transfers are just as bad as a customer having to call back again and again for the same issue.
seven. Don’t make customers repeat their story: Just like you only want to transfer a customer once, you only want them to tell their story once, and that’s to the first agent. That doesn’t mean the customer can’t share more details, but the new agent or supervisor should have an idea of the call so it doesn’t start from the very beginning. At a minimum, there should be appropriate notes in the client file. Notifying the next level of support of the situation also helps eliminate the need for the customer to start over.
8. Be proactive: Consider ways to help the customer with something they hadn’t thought of or asked for. Watching their story and paying attention to their questions might give you clues as to what you could suggest to improve their future experience with your product. It could also save them from having to call back with a question you know they might possibly have.
9. Always finish strong: Keep the door open. Even if the call isn’t perfect, do your best to finish strong. The customer should feel that you are doing your best and that you really care about their problem.
ten. Show your appreciation: Don’t forget to say thank you and make the customer feel appreciated. Even in a bad service interaction, the customer service agent almost always says “Thank you,” but sometimes the customer feels like it’s part of the script rather than a sincere gesture of appreciation.
Some of you will say, “It’s just common sense,” and you would be right. But, if you’ve followed my work, you’ll know that one of my favorite sayings is, “Common sense isn’t always so common.” So take a look at this list, as basic as it is, and remind everyone talking to the customer to manage the experience so they’d rather call you than clean a toilet!