You're through to the Helpless Desk…again!

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We recently ran an article on a survey by Motive which raised the interesting - and pertinent - point that progress towards Broadband Britain was being hampered by the poor quality of the customer support and helpdesk activities on the part of the major telcos. This was identified as a problem that was only likely to get worse as more and more inexperienced users took advantage of self-install to get on the high speed internet.

Well, on the basis of the performance by BTOpenWorld this week, those predictions look horribly true. It wasn't even as if I had a particularly complicated query. My email box had started bouncing messages back to senders and informing them my account was full. It patently was not at the client end, which meant that for some reason the BT server was not deleting messages. I was unable to sort this problem from my end, so I needed someone at BTOpenWorld to delete the data from the company's end.

So far so simple, but not as simple as the person who answered the phone it seemed. It took five attempts for him to get my name correct, which caused him to declare triumphantly on more than one occasion that I didn't have an account with BTOpenWorld. After he finally managed to type correctly, he then said he had no idea what the problem was. I told him that he needed to clear the server account, but this appeared to be a strange and alien concept to the little lamb.

But then in one bound he was free. "You're using broadband," he declared. "Yeeeeeessssss..." I said cautiously, horribly realising what his next move was going to be. Sure enough he happily followed up by declaring that I needed to talk to the BT Broadband customer support. Unfortunately for him I was ready for this one. It's not a broadband problem, it's an OpenWorld problem, I told him, the broadband connection is working just fine.

You've got to give him brownie points for trying. He made two more attempts to get me to call broadband support. God loves a trier! "This is an OpenWorld email issue," I snapped," and this is the contact number for email problems on the BT OpenWorld web page." The answer was classic BT and full marks to my little chum for delivering it with commendable po-faced sobriety: "There isn't an email helpline contact number, sir." A top performance all round, displaying an admirable ability to ignore irritating little things, like reality and the fact that there's a contact number on your own company web site.

At this point I lost it and demanded to speak to someone in charge. It took five minutes of insisting down the phone before he finally put me through to someone else, who took 30 seconds to realise what the problem was and put it right. I complained about the person I'd been talking to originally only to be told happily: "Oh, he's new - you can't expect him to know everything."

Well, maybe not, but if he doesn't know how to deal with customers, then what's he doing answering customer calls? Is BT now training its helpdesk staff by simply throwing them at customers? Convenient for them perhaps, but less so for the poor punter paying 25 pence a minute to be fobbed off with excuses from someone who doesn't know what he's talking about! Maybe it's a new revenue stream for BT? Put people who are guaranteed to slow down the process onto the premium rate helplines and watch those pennies roll in...

Mind you, at least I did get my problem sorted within half an hour. I'm currently waiting for Apple's customer care to come back to me about a query I submitted to them 7 and a half weeks ago. They're getting back to me "tomorrow" apparently. At least that's what they said 7 and a half weeks ago. And then four weeks ago. And then last week. Still never mind, I'm only paying hundreds of pounds for extended customer care, so that doesn't matter, does it? And they are awfully polite in their indifference.

There's probably some rational explanation why the worst culprits for atrocious customer help desks are the information technology and communications companies who so frequently boast about the superior quality of their support services, but I'm beggared if I can see it. Maybe there's a helpdesk number I could phone to ask...

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05th Jul 2002 15:42

BT have recently given me at least 5 great examples of how not to do CRM, including several around migrating from ISDN to ADSL... how dare I want to become a lower value customer!!

However, I have two observations....

... what did you expect in this brave new world, where every organisation thinks CRM is the answer? They have all been conned by the big CRM vendors into thinking that dealing with customers on a 1:2:1 basis is going to increase their profits, when in reality most of us don't want a relationship with our phone provider, our utility, our bank or our supermarket... we want good products at attractive prices through a reasonable range of channels, with appropriate after sales support. That doesn't need CRM, but it does need customer understanding... in my experience probably the last thing most organisations get when they take up CRM... what CRM normally tells them is where they are inefficient, how long their staff take to answer calls, which customers have problems; not what their customers want, why they have problems or what alternatives they are considering.... to get this they need to look outside the company, not inside at all the detailed transactions.

... secondly, staff are the missing link in the whole chain. How many organisations really understand how their staff and customers interact and what it is about their staff that makes it work. It's not about counting minutes per call, or number of transactions with a grade A outcome.... it's about the staff's personality, their education, their experience. Again the former items are easy for the CRM vendors to measure, as a result it becomes a good idea, 'cos they can... the latter items are more emotional and take hard work and commitment and rigorous analysis to show it works....

but then I forgot the board... they want it to be easy to and have half a dozen KPI's in their balanced scorecard to show they deserve their fat bonuses and options... not great ideas that can transform a business, again too much like hard work.

So, what did you expect from BT? Only a company who believes in its customers and staff can really do CRM and make it work... and it doesn't need systems, it needs commitment, vision and a passion that understanding customers can improve and change the business not measure against what it was

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By admin
08th Jul 2002 14:40

...when you're the poor sod paying the bill for hanging on the helpdesk while some YTS reject tries to get you to talk to someone else. Personally the only person I want to talk to is another provider, but I'm stuck in a contract until later this year so I have to endure the [***] that BT dishes out.

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avatar
22nd Jul 2002 17:36

After reading the article on BT Broadband and their creative hiding from customers I can say to my friends across the pond that you are not the only ones that have this issue.

My ISP is the largest local carrier in the state of California. We too had a recent outage and do you think you would find it easy to find a breathing homo[***] sapien? no way!

I love it when you go to an online site and try to find a help number for live service (yea, like that's going to happen) We have deluded ourselves that the only CRM opportunity is a Sales opportunity. I guarantee you the cost of reacquiring the number of people that leave after major outages outweighs the cost of supporting them adequately. It always does! Why is it that everything in today's society revolves around making a quick buck (or pound, Euro, or your currency of choice) instead of keeping customers happy?

If you consider the amount of money spent on technology for CRM in these organizations made to sell things you think they would just invest in good help and proper management to SUPPORT their customers.

Stop selling... start supporting!

A Customer Support VP that saw this one coming 5 years ago.

R

Thanks (0)
avatar
22nd Jul 2002 17:36

After reading the article on BT Broadband and their creative hiding from customers I can say to my friends across the pond that you are not the only ones that have this issue.

My ISP is the largest local carrier in the state of California. We too had a recent outage and do you think you would find it easy to find a breathing homo[***] sapien? no way!

I love it when you go to an online site and try to find a help number for live service (yea, like that's going to happen) We have deluded ourselves that the only CRM opportunity is a Sales opportunity. I guarantee you the cost of reacquiring the number of people that leave after major outages outweighs the cost of supporting them adequately. It always does! Why is it that everything in today's society revolves around making a quick buck (or pound, Euro, or your currency of choice) instead of keeping customers happy?

If you consider the amount of money spent on technology for CRM in these organizations made to sell things you think they would just invest in good help and proper management to SUPPORT their customers.

Stop selling... start supporting!

A Customer Support VP that saw this one coming 5 years ago.

R

Thanks (0)
avatar
By admin
09th Jul 2002 04:05

Stuart, JJ and Clive,

I applaud the article, a great perspective from a "clients" point of view and seemingly pointed to the pitfalls of CRM and the implementation thereof.

I am the CRM (Customer Resource Manager) of a medium size Industrial Software Provider and your article rings loud and clear with what I would call a problem in finding seasoned employees more than a failed CRM system.

My company uses an in-house CRM system to provide our Support Group with a database, contact management etc., but beyond that, you are correct Clive,it's about the staff's personality, their education, and their experience. The problem is, where do you exactly find, in this case, a person who after "x" amount of time & trainig is going to be able to answer all your questions?

I submitt to you all the problem with focusing too much attention on CRM systems is that we are missing the tried and true methods of training our support personnel the skills neccessary to handle phone calls regardless of the suject.

Although I manage a Technical Support call center, I am not technical nor do I have to be, that is presumably why I hire those who are. However, I do good phone. There is an art to handle the influx of troubled callers and even if I do not have the answer, I can say 98% of the time, the caller is reassured, calmed down and trusts I will have someone in a very short amount of time, return their call with a solution.

The trouble is Stuart, JJ , and Clive you all are in the 2% who believe they should have the person who should have the answer a the time you call. I wish it were so, but alas it cannot always be. I too desire more attention in this whole CRM business to be focused once again on honing the skills & training those who are responsable to take on the callers and customers. If I had taken your call, I might not have had your answer at the time you called, but when you and I were finished, you would have had a painless experience and would of appreciated how you were handled. To me that is the true art to CRM and proper customer relations. Please do not blame a system or for that matter a person, but instead feel for the person who is really trying to perform their job at the best they can. If you can give a constructive pointer along the way, are you not better for it?

So, instead of writing an article about failed CRM systems, why don't we challenge the CRM managers to remember and embrace the basic skills that brought us here. A CRM system is only good as the staff with good personality, education, and experience at the other end of the phone.

Thanks (0)
avatar
By admin
08th Jul 2002 14:40

...when you're the poor sod paying the bill for hanging on the helpdesk while some YTS reject tries to get you to talk to someone else. Personally the only person I want to talk to is another provider, but I'm stuck in a contract until later this year so I have to endure the [***] that BT dishes out.

Thanks (0)
avatar
05th Jul 2002 15:42

BT have recently given me at least 5 great examples of how not to do CRM, including several around migrating from ISDN to ADSL... how dare I want to become a lower value customer!!

However, I have two observations....

... what did you expect in this brave new world, where every organisation thinks CRM is the answer? They have all been conned by the big CRM vendors into thinking that dealing with customers on a 1:2:1 basis is going to increase their profits, when in reality most of us don't want a relationship with our phone provider, our utility, our bank or our supermarket... we want good products at attractive prices through a reasonable range of channels, with appropriate after sales support. That doesn't need CRM, but it does need customer understanding... in my experience probably the last thing most organisations get when they take up CRM... what CRM normally tells them is where they are inefficient, how long their staff take to answer calls, which customers have problems; not what their customers want, why they have problems or what alternatives they are considering.... to get this they need to look outside the company, not inside at all the detailed transactions.

... secondly, staff are the missing link in the whole chain. How many organisations really understand how their staff and customers interact and what it is about their staff that makes it work. It's not about counting minutes per call, or number of transactions with a grade A outcome.... it's about the staff's personality, their education, their experience. Again the former items are easy for the CRM vendors to measure, as a result it becomes a good idea, 'cos they can... the latter items are more emotional and take hard work and commitment and rigorous analysis to show it works....

but then I forgot the board... they want it to be easy to and have half a dozen KPI's in their balanced scorecard to show they deserve their fat bonuses and options... not great ideas that can transform a business, again too much like hard work.

So, what did you expect from BT? Only a company who believes in its customers and staff can really do CRM and make it work... and it doesn't need systems, it needs commitment, vision and a passion that understanding customers can improve and change the business not measure against what it was

Thanks (0)