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3 Things That Truly Matter to Customers (But Don't Tell Them)

“I could care less.”

“That is your problem.”

“Better you than me.”

“It sucks to be you.”

These quotes are typical comments, some of which are often more colorful, that may be found in customer comments. You are reviewing customer comments, aren’t you? But when you see these comments, they really don’t give you any insight into why they were said. And most of the time, customers don’t understand the real reason they said them; the underlying reason that matters to you, that is.

I have something in common with 125 million people worldwide, but most of us don’t like to talk about it. We suffer from psoriasis. Psoriasis is the most prevalent autoimmune disease in the U.S., and according to the World Psoriasis Day consortium, affects 2 to 3 percent of the total world population. Because of this faulty issue in my body I have to inject myself every few weeks with a TNF-alpha (tumor necrosis factor-alpha) blocker that binds to TNF-alpha and helps block the process of inflammation in the skin. Remember all of this, there will be a test later.

The TNF-alpha blocker I take has the commercial name Humira® and is manufactured by AbbVie, a recent spinoff of Abbott Laboratories. Humira® is one of those drugs that you see advertised on television that has a two-minute dialogue about all of the warnings associated with taking the medication and about five seconds about what it does.

To get my prescription filled for this drug I use a mail order pharmacy that sends me a several month supply of medication. However, I need to rethink my decision to use them because on my most recent attempt to refill my prescription things went terribly wrong. After almost six weeks of trying to get my medication, I had to go to my local pharmacy to get the medication or else miss my scheduled dose. Not good.

This all started when my doctor had to be contacted to approve another refill when I tried to order. In the past when that happened, I received a call after a few days to schedule shipping. But this time after a week had passed I still had not received a phone call to schedule shipping, so I called my doctor to check on the progress of the refill. The doctor’s office resubmitted the paperwork for the refill and told me they would probably contact me in a few days.

Once again after an entire week had passed, I still did not receive a call to schedule shipping so I called the pharmacy to get a status update. The agent I spoke with told me that there seemed to be a billing problem and she couldn’t refill the order until it was cleared. I was transferred. I spoke with a billing specialist and she asked me a few questions and I gave her the information she needed. She said they would put the order in the system to be queued for delivery scheduling and I should receive a call to schedule delivery the next day.

After a week had passed with no call to schedule delivery, I called and was met with the message that they were experiencing high call volumes and that my valuable call was important enough to receive a twenty-minute wait time. When I finally spoke with an agent and told her of my run-around, she apologized in a professional and courteous manner and tried to place my refill order. She then stated her system would not allow her to place the order so I was placed on hold. After a brief time on hold she returned to inform me that she could not place the order because her system did not show a refill subscription in the system.

I was right back to where I had started six weeks prior. Thank goodness I started my attempt to refill my prescription when I still had some doses on hand. But, by this time I was out of medicine as I faced being back to the beginning. It was then that my local pharmacy won my business by simply filling a prescription which was too difficult a basic task for the other pharmacy. At my local pharmacy I do not get a multi-month supply, but at least I can get it, which is what I care about most.

During this entire comedy of errors, there were three things that the mail order pharmacy should have executed that I did not want to hear about. I could care less. If your customers ever have torture-like experiences, they don’t want to hear about them either. In fact when you do mention these things, you will receive customer comments like I mentioned above. Yet, these three things are probably something your agents talk about every day.

When conducting your internal quality monitoring evaluations, you know when you hear certain words and phrases that the interaction will start to turn negative. They are like psychological triggers that turn on the customer-gets-upset switch. These three words are: people, process, technology. You must look out for words and phrases that relate to these as they are triggers that can turn things negative in a hurry.

During several attempts to call the mail order pharmacy, I was being told via their automated system that they were experiencing high call volumes and delays. This seems like a good idea, but I hear it every time when I call them. I know this is code for “we have staffing problems and we either can’t keep people or get the funding to get more full time employees”. Fix your people problem. I could care less. I just need my medicine.   

During one of my interactions with the mail order pharmacy, the agent kept referring to her system not allowing her to place the order. From my perspective as a customer, your technology problems should not get in the way of me getting what I need. Don’t tell me about your technology limitations. Fix your technology problem. I could care less. I just need my medicine.

During another interaction, I was transferred to a billing agent and then my request was dumped back into the queue for shipment scheduling. I called to place a refill order not clear my billing problem. Place my order after you clear the account, don’t delay me even longer. Fix your process problem. I could care less. I just need my medicine.

While I went through this experience, I knew about the people, process, and technology that were needed for this company to operate. It was important to me because I needed my medicine. But just like your customers, I did not want to hear the excuses.

So be aware, your customers are concerned with your people, process, and technology problems because each define the customer service experience, but don’t ever tell them about it; they could care less.