Called a Call Centre as a consumer? Was technology any help?

The Badger recently received a renewal notice from a home service provider showing an annual price rise of >15%. Last year it rose similarly, but the Badger had been distracted with other priorities and didn’t notice. This year the Badger was having none of it, especially as new customers pay significantly less.

The Badger rang the phone number on the renewal letter and was met with automated selection options. There were six, with only one having a tenuous link with renewals. Selecting that led to more selection choices. The Badger scratched his head and guessed which was relevant. An automated voice then asked for some words to describe the nature of the enquiry. The Badger duly complied. Then there was silence until the ubiquitous message ‘Sorry for the wait. At present we are exceptionally busy. We’ll be with you as soon as we can’ repeated at regular intervals. After 10 minutes in the queue the Badger spoke to a real person. They didn’t know what the call was about… so what was  the point of being asked to say some words? Nevertheless, the person was helpful,  professional and able to negotiate a renewal that retained the Badger as a customer.

The Badger subsequently reflected on the experience. Two things stood out. First, the time taken from dialling to talking to a person greatly exceeded the time taken by the person to deal with matters. Second, the technology had provided no value to the Badger as a consumer. The value was all in the person to person interaction. Perhaps the Badger had just been unlucky. May be. But in these days of global immediacy, a consumer wants to speak to someone when calling a number designated by a company in a sensible number of seconds without having to navigate selection layers, provide valueless inputs or spending lengthy times in queues. Technology can surely make this happen better than it does today? It should help rather than detract from the overall experience.

Will robotics and AI really help? The jury’s out. It might just inject further delay before getting to speak with a real person when you need to. The challenge for relevant technology and product suppliers, those who configure and implement them, and the companies operating call centres is to ensure this doesn’t happen.

Finally, ‘you should have done this online’, I hear you say! The Badger tried, but the provider’s online facilities don’t allow existing customers to switch to offering given to new customers. Does this provider truly value its customers? Draw your own conclusions…

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