I love irony. Irony can make for great humor.
But I don't love irony when the joke's on me. That's what happened yesterday, when I called Microsoft Customer Support.
Now, I wasn't calling just any customer support center; I was calling one at a software company that's bigger than the entire country of Croatia; a company that makes a widely-used Customer Relationship Management software application for Customer Support organizations.
So, shouldn't I expect this Customer Support Center to use its own software well enough to treat me to a world-class customer experience? I mean, nobody should use it better than these guys, right? Well, here comes the irony...
The woman that answered the phone was courteous enough - she took my name, phone number, account number, and some information about my issue. She then told me that a Microsoft technical support rep would call me back.
She: "It can take up to eight hours."
(A brief silence as disappointment takes root.)
Me: "Based on today's call volume, what's the realistic wait time?"
Wait a minute... Doesn't Microsoft CRM software track that information? Microsoft says that, in their multi-million-dollar marketing campaigns. They say that their CRM software gives all users a 360-degree view of the customers; putting the right information in the hands of the right people, to deliver a world class customer experience.
The woman that I spoke to was the front end of the customer support organization. But she didn't have access to the certain basic information that's captured in the CRM system.
So, what could Microsoft have done differently, to enable the customer support dispatcher to deliver a better experience?
Make the right information available to the right people.
Information can be powerful, but only if its accessible to the people that can put it to use. Even if the first level agents work out of a different system than the one that contains the case counts, integrations can be designed to expose data from one system, inside of another. Small software companies integrate different systems every day, for this very pupose. Big software companies can do it too.
Say the right things to the customer.
Don't say it will take eight hours if it really won't. You'll only risk upsetting the customer, unnecessarily. I actually received a call back in under an hour! And I was told that it "never takes eight hours - that's just our Service Level Agreement (SLA). It rarely takes more than two hours to get back to a customer."
If that's the case, then the agents should say, "You'll probably hear back from someone within two hours; but on rare occassions, it can take up to eight."
A large software company that builds, sells and supports information systems designed to deliver an excellent customer experience, but doesn't use those systems as well as they could be used, is a lot like the cobbler whose own children are running around shoeless.
Don't get caught with your shoes off, when your customers come calling.