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We're All Tired of Being Badgered

cuteThere's a line of thinking in the CX world that every customer wants to be "wowed," and that this is how you both gain loyalty and new customers. But what does "wowed" mean? Increasingly, I think it means we simply don't want to be badgered.

Roughly 13 years ago, I was introduced to a series of commercials for Johnson Automotive, a chain of car dealerships in North Carolina, Maryland, and Florida. They featured an anthropomorphic, gravelly-voiced badger dressed in a tweed check jacket by the name of Grady. Grady was pushy, condescending, and/or rude to every customer. The commercials capitalized on the double meaning of "badger" (both the animal and the act of pestering) to great effect. The badger embodied the worst customer experience.

None of us like being badgered, and yet we still get those kinds of customer experiences from time to time. Let's take a look at 4 instances where we're still being badgered today and how your organization can embrace the idea of "No badgers."

"I don't wanna spend all day doin' this, you know?" - Grady the Badger

When you think about contact center metrics, Average Handle Time (AHT) is often near the top of the list. While this metric is incredibly important for a variety of reasons, agents who are constantly hounded about their AHT often resort to simply rushing through calls. It's not that they want to rush the caller, but they're often not coached on specific behaviors and techniques to equip them to be more efficient. Root causes of long handle times may include:

  • Not being able to clearly and succinctly address issues
  • Not knowing the most efficient way to navigate a system
  • Not having access to or using a consistent process/procedure
  • Not actively listening or making notes
  • Making erroneous assumptions
  • Not recognizing when to get help

All of these can be rectified with targeted coaching when you first understand what specific issues that might cause the agent to struggle. You don't want your agents rushing callers, so stop talking about AHT and start talking about behaviors that lead to efficiency.

"As soon as your husband gets here, I'll be more than happy to show you all the features." - Grady the Badger

Certainly, customer service workers have had to deal with their share of awful customers, but that doesn't excuse awful behavior from them. Being rude to someone because they have an accent, are of a particular gender, or are struggling with a process isn't acceptable, but it is surprising how often it still happens. Some of the reasons for this may include:

  • No ability to blow off steam after an interaction with an "awful customer"
  • Hiring the wrong people
  • No coaching or focus on empathy
  • No systematic identification of negative customer sentiment

Creating a customer experience without rudeness begins with hiring the right people - people who care and want to help customers. Even the best people need coaching for how to deal with challenging customers and a moment to recover from awful customer interactions. If you're not using sentiment analysis to identify potential issues, it may be difficult to even know that this might be happening.

"We just want to know how your experience was?" (After an incoming flurry of customer complaints.) "We aim to please." - Grady the Badger

Voice of the Customer (VOC) is all the rage, and customers are inundated with invitations from companies to "tell us how we're doing," and "rate our performance today," or inquires like, "How likely are you to recommend us to your friends and family?" There are three problems with surveys like this:

  • Feedback provided isn't acted on
  • Surveys are given for every interaction regardless of context
  • Basing employee compensation on results may lead to unintended employee behavior

If your company culture is one of service and valuing customers, you don't need to incent anyone on survey results. Doing so often leads to behavior that inhibits honest feedback. And there's nothing wrong with gathering honest customer feedback, but it's not about quantity - it's about quality. Gather feedback and do something about it.

"Do I look like I care? I don't!" - Grady the Badger

Nothing will make you become a former customer faster than a company's seeming unwillingness to address questions or problems. While most of us understand that mistakes and missteps are part of life, we're only willing to look past these transgressions when they are owned and addressed in a timely manner. If the queue time is regularly unreasonable, it feels like being badgered by hold music. If the response time to an email inquiry is measured in days or weeks, it feels like being badgered by silence. Finally, if the response is, "I can't do that," or "Our policy doesn't allow that," rest assured that it feels like being badgered. Root causes to these forms of badgering may include:

  • Inadequate staffing
  • Too many channels being offered
  • Poor IVR routing / no virtual queue
  • Lack of agent empowerment

While there's no magic bullet for staffing, the overreliance on self-service and "deflection" is an ongoing issue for some organizations. Technology can contribute significantly to customer experience, but only when applied thoughtfully. As for empowerment, the organizations that offer the best customer experiences empower agents by operating under guidelines rather than with strict policies.

Topics: Customer Experience, Best Practices, Culture And Engagement