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What’s worse than ending up on the customer support wall of shame? Being called to court by the senate of the United States for being on the customer support wall of shame.

That’s precisely the nightmare that Comcast is facing right now. After topping 24/7 Wall St.’s “Wall Of Shame”– an extensive survey on the companies with the best and worst customer support– they, along with Charter and its subsidiary, Time Warner Cable, were brought under fire for their poor customer service practices, including overbilling for equipment, difficulties with downgrading or canceling service, and fees that raise prices above those advertised.

How Did They Get Here?

 

We at Helpshift believe that the majority of customer support problems come from lack of information. When customers don’t know what’s going on (why their bill increased, why their internet is down, why they lost 15 channels), they become frustrated. When, after searching, they still don’t know what’s going on, the frustration increases to anger. When they reach out to a customer service representative and don’t get any more information, or don’t get it quickly and succinctly, they churn.

There are three steps that lead customers to this point:

1. An Even With No Explanation (Higher Bill, Etc)

“Senators said the companies should simplify bills, be more transparent, and refund overcharges,” philly.com reported. One of the biggest problems with Comcast and other companies with poor customer service is that they do not explain, or even point out, changes in billing. When customers are hit with a confusing event, like a bill that is suddenly $10 higher, or a loss of certain channels, they will automatically feel angry.

2. A Lack of Information on the web about said event (FAQs)

Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri, told executives testifying Thursday that “nobody knows how to get the lowest price from you guys. . . . I think the secret sauce is to get really mad.”

And what does anger breed? Low customer service rankings, and a place at the top of the customer service wall of shame.

If nobody knows how to help themselves after getting a higher bill, they will be angry; simple as that. People want information, they want clarity, they want to be able to find answers to their questions.

 

3. Slow, poor in-person customer service (outsourced call center)

According to one of the senate committee reports, 40% of Comcast customers who called with billing problems could not get their issue resolved with the first phone call. Now you are left with at least 4 negative touchpoints between the customer and the company: a confusing event, an inability to fix it through self-service, a fruitless call, and at least one more call. Is it any wonder they’re at the top of the customer support wall of shame?

How Can You Get Off The Wall Of Shame?

 

Now, let’s take a look at what some of the companies with the best customer service practices do at each of these steps.

To avoid the three steps that lead customers to anger, you must:

  1. Never change things on the customer without an explanation and venue to contact you
  2. Have detailed and extensive FAQs that you proactively present to the customer when they begin looking for help
  3. Make sure that your reps are easily reachable, and are pristinely trained to offer superior service

 

If you go to the Amazon Help center, you are greeted by first name, offered suggestions for areas you could be seeking help with, and presented with an intelligent search bar that allows you to find FAQs. That takes care of number 2. Then, if you didn’t find what you were looking for, you can “Ask The Community”, “Ask The Kindle Community”, or “Contact Us”. Upon clicking contact us, you are immediately given a page with your most recent order and numerous options related to it. That’s not it? You can choose to chat, email, or call a customer service rep. Chat is much more rapid than other forms of communication because the agents already have information regarding you and your quest for help. But here’s the thing: most Amazon customers never need to chat, call, or email. They get stopped at Step 2.

Even better, many customers don’t even progress past Step 1, because Amazon uses feedback and analyzes FAQ data to improve their proactive support. The best customer support is when your users don’t ever need to contact you.

What it boils down to is this: give your customers information. Anticipate questions, and give them as much visibility into what’s happening on your end as possible. While Comcast does offer chat, phone, and email customer service, the reps are often slow to respond and seem to lack an understanding of the product– I recently had a particularly trying interaction with a chat agent while trying to set up my internet, and ultimately solved my problem through a third party forum. Amazon wins through fantastic FAQs, and customer support reps who are motivated to offer great service because the company values them.

Get Onto The Customer Service Wall of Fame

Getting off the wall can be hard, because it means not just changing the ways in which you do customer service, but changing your entire company philosophy. As customer service guru Shep Hyken told us in a recent interview, “Today, a customer-focused company has customer service permeating the entire organization.” It’s not enough to just add a live chat option, or switch to 24/7 support; you must also prioritize customer service in your product and your company values. That’s how companies like Apple and Amazon have consistently remained on the Wall of Fame.

Published July 21, 2016
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