Are Your Customer Service Representatives Damaging Your Brand?



David Lee
08/29/2011

Do all of your employees who interact with your customers, patients, or clients project the image you want?

Do they know what your brand promise means and how to deliver it?

Do they truly understand what it means to deliver a customer experience and not just complete a transaction?

I bet not.

If You’re Not Doing What These Employers Do, They Won’t
Unless you have demonstrated the commitment and evangelism of companies like Zappos, Disney, Baptist Healthcare, or Ritz Carlton, I can virtually promise you that you have pockets of—or even rampant—mediocrity.

When Brand Image and Customer Service Reality Collide
Let me give you an example that just happened to me which reminded me of this sad reality.

I just bought a new laptop.

I decided on a brand based on its reputation for reliability and excellent tech support.

As I navigated the company’s website, comparing models and options, I couldn’t find the information I needed to compare two different models, so I called customer service.

(By the way, the website’s user-unfriendliness represents another key component of the customer experience you want to consider, but we won’t get into that here)

Angelo, the customer service rep, was okay but a bit rough around the edges, which contradicted the company’s "laptops for the serious business professional" image. After answering my question, he asked me to include his initials in my web order so he could "manage my order."

After I placed my purchase, I started wondering about the service plan I ordered. The plan included laptop disaster protection, but there was another plan for $10 more which indicated some kind of "next tier" service, but it didn’t explicitly state it included the disaster protection. Although it made sense that it would, I figured I’d check and update my order if necessary.

Here’s my email question to Angelo:

"P.S. Also, I ordered the 3 year priority onsite + TPP but noticed for $10 more there was another level, but...it didn't indicate if that included the TPP. Does it?"

I received this email response:

"I see the three year warranty on your order. Thank you so much."

If He Doesn’t Pay Attention to This, What Else Will They Not Pay Attention To?
Ah…OK. That doesn’t answer my question, though.

His not paying attention to the question and supplying a mindless response didn’t exactly inspire confidence. It certainly didn’t create a "top tier customer service" image for his company.

Obviously this level of mistake isn’t the end of the world, but if you want to be seen as best in class, this kind of sloppiness and mindlessness does matter. In fact, when it comes to your brand and your reputation, in the words of branding guru Scott Bedbury: "Everything Matters."

Every interaction matters. Every interaction can improve or diminish your customer, patient, or client’s impression of you…and therefore your brand.

And Then It Gets Worse
Remember I mentioned how Angelo wanted me to put his initials in my order form so he could "manage my order"?

He got another chance to do that and earn his commission.

I asked specifically over the phone, emailed him, and put in the "comments" section of the order that I wanted my laptop to be held until after August 9th, when I returned from vacation.

No problem, he said.

Except, while I was gone I got multiple calls from my house sitter saying I had a package from UPS requiring my signature. I then got a message from UPS saying I needed to pick it up or it would be returned. So when I got home, I had to drive to the UPS facility to pick up my laptop, rather than have it delivered.

Not the end of the world, but a bit of an annoyance. More seriously, because the human mind is a "generalizing machine", their blowing a simple request made me wonder for what I was in store when I really needed help. If they had this level of professionalism and attention to detail for something as simple as "don’t deliver until…", what is it going to be like if there’s a complex problem?

Yet Another Questionable Customer Service Moment of Truth
Yesterday, I called tech support because my laptop wouldn’t start. The tech support person who answered the phone sounded like I had roused him from a nap.

In addition to sounding sleepy, he didn’t enunciate clearly. He had that mumbling, marbles-in-the-mouth way of speaking that communicates—fairly or not—a slow, dull mind. Think of times you’ve needed technical support for anything and you heard that kind of voice, or a voice that included poor grammar.

Did it instill confidence or did it set your teeth on edge because it signaled "this is going to be a frustrating experience?"

Again, this employee wasn’t exactly projecting the image their employer had spent a lot of advertising and branding dollars creating. Apparently, though, the company hadn’t invested similarly in hiring and customer service training.

Of course, my laptop DID start when I tried it again with him on the phone, so we chatted about what he suggested probably caused its earlier failures to launch: static charge.

I then asked him about the options I had for preventing my battery from running down completely, which might have been part of the problem. (In case you’re wondering, when it had failed to start previously, I did have the AC cord plugged in).

He told me there was no setting that would prevent the batter from running out, but he showed me something else about monitoring the battery. While I was in that panel, I discovered there WAS a way to shut the laptop down before the battery ran out under the alarm setting.

The Customer Service I’m Getting Doesn’t Inspire Confidence
Now I’m thinking: "I’m pretty sure I ordered their premier tech support and this guy doesn’t even know this simple thing that I discovered in one minute?"

How confident do you think I am about what I can expect from their tech people in the future?

How do you think my assessment of them being "top tier" in the tech support department has changed since these three interactions?

Stay tuned for part two of David's analysis, which reveals seven strategies for assuring your customer service representatives are helpful brand ambassadors.

If you like what you read, check out our 6th Annual Call Centre Canada event--leading speakers will help you ready your call center agents to instill brand confidence across multiple channels!

David Lee, the founder of HumanNature@Work, works with employers who want to improve employee engagement, customer service, and morale. He has worked with organizations and presented at conferences both domestically and abroad.

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