But my recent infuriating experience with FairPoint Communications was caused by such blatant disregard for the basics, that I'd feel irresponsible if I didn't call them out.
Here’s how it began…
I had no dialtone on my office phone. So, I called Fairpoint Customer Support at 866-984-2001.
A recording instructed me to call a different number -866-984-1611 - if I needed technical support, or wanted to report a problem.
STEP # 1:
Even if you operate out of functional silos, don't make it ugly for your customers by making us take extra steps. Connect your different departments through seamless phone transfers, and simple information sharing. Make it easy for me, by linking that second number to the first, so that all I have to do is “press X” for technical support. Fairpoint is a phone company after all, so they should be able to do that, right?
Matt, the tech support rep, was a nice enough guy, who quickly told me that there were no outages reported in my area, and that therefore, there may be an isolated issue around the utility pole outside my home. He told me that I would need to speak with the repair group, and he would transfer me there immediately. (Great, he’s going to transfer me. At least I don’t have to dial a third phone number, myself.)
After a brief silence, Donna answered the phone. Here first question to me was:
“Sir, can you tell me what phone number you’re reporting an issue with, along with your name and address?”
My response: I just gave all that information to the last person that I spoke to.
She: “I realize that sir, but I need to have that information as well, because I don’t have any of the information that you gave to customer service. We’re a different group.”
Do whatever you can, to appear like one single harmonious company to the customer, even if you don’t operate that way internally!
STEP # 2:
Don’t force your customers to repeat their stories. Every company on the planet should know by now that customers hate that. As customers, we don’t want to have to think that we’re dealing with multiple companies. The fact that you don’t share information internally shouldn’t be the customer’s problem.
Invest in some very basic CRM or Call Center technology so that you can share customer information across your functional silos.
The first two minutes of my conversation with Donna was spent re-telling all the details that I explained to Matt. Each time Donna asked me for more information, I reminded her that I already gave that information to the last Fairpoint representative I spoke to. Sure, Donna probably thought I was a pain. But she was very blunt about it not being her fault, and couldn’t I understand that? She had a point – the fact that I had to re-tell my story wasn’t her fault.
STEP # 3:
Donna was forced to do her job with inferior tools. This made life ugly for Donna, and ugly for her customer. But instead of denying responsibility, Donna should have simply commiserated with the customer, by showing some empathy: “I apologize, but our systems are not able to transfer that information to me, so I’m going to have to ask you to repeat it.”
Nothing elaborate; just a simple acknowledgement to let me know that she appreciates the inconvenience I’m subject to. If your systems and processes cause any inconvenience to your customer, train your customer-facing employees to openly acknowledge it, and show some empathy.
A little empathy goes a long way to create good will, and clean up a customer service mess.