Looking to lose a few good customers? The quickest way to send them on their way to the nearest competitor is to not provide your employees with the training and information they need to handle customer inquiries.
Let's look at two recent examples:My daughter, Claudia, just flew to Ireland on Aer Lingus; usually a terrific airline with pleasant, helpful staff. Claudia just recently turned 14, so I wanted to go with her to the gate. I phoned the airline's contact center to find out what I would need to do so. The rep I spoke with said all I needed was to speak to the agent at check-in. Whether I could accompany Claudia to the gate was up to the discretion of the airport staff.
Upon check-in the agent curtly told me that I would need my passport to go with Claudia to the gate--a vital piece of information not provided by the contact center rep. I explained to the check-in agent that I wasn't informed that I needed my passport. After begrudgingly phoning someone to see if my driver's license would suffice, she dismissively reiterated the policy without looking up from her computer. That was that.
Of course, I was going to bring my passport, even though the contact center rep didn't say that I'd need it. But then I thought that since I'm not flying my driver's license should be ID enough. Never assume, as the saying goes. That includes assuming that you've actually gotten the information you need.
Fortunately, Delta flies to Dublin.
Then there's Citibank. I happen to like Citi, and have had great customer experiences with branch staff and contact center agents. But I've had several interactions with a frontline associate who's as uninformed as she is helpful. And, believe me, this is a bad combination.
The first time she "helped" me, I left in a rage and nearly changed banks. She glibly told me that I would have to close my checking account and open a new one to make what should have been a simple change to the account. This was no easy feat considering how much is linked to that account. And if I really had to start from scratch, I might as well move all of my business elsewhere, I thought at the time. After blogging about the situation, Citi executives resolved the issue with 48 hours. The employee simply didn't have the right information. All I needed was a one-page form to make the account change.
But the story doesn't end there. I recently, with trepidation, spoke to the same associate about an issue with my checking account. I was being charged a fee that another employee told me I was exempt from. That employee was with another customer, so again, this associate decided to "help." She said I'd have to switch account types to resolve the issue, which also meant closing an attached saving account that I didn't want to close. This was all said fairly flippantly. Close an account? That's it? I can't imagine that Citi trains its associates to tell customers to just close an account without suggesting an alternative.
I said I'd leave things as they were and promptly went home, called the contact center, spoke with someone who had the right information and training to resolve the issue, and with a few clicks she linked two accounts that should have been linked but weren't, and then refunded the fee. Simple.
A little information and training, and a bit of empathy, go a long way. So does escalation. If you don't know the answer, point me to someone who does. Don't give me bad, wrong, or not enough information. Because, with rare exception, there's a competitor out there who will be happy to have my business if you do.