It has happened to everyone. Someone promises to return your call but, after waiting in vain for the phone to ring, you get the sinking feeling that maybe the call is not as important to them as it is to you.
While complaints related to callbacks may appear on the surface to be less important than the initial problems, they often prove to be more of a threat to the business-customer relationship. Whatever our reason for contacting customer care in the first place, most of us understand that "things happen" and hope everything can be resolved without our expending too much time and energy.
This is where the human factor comes in. Technical problems and unfavorable company policies can be excused to some degree, but insufficient or non-existent agent effort cannot be condoned. Having to call customer care multiple times can be expensive as well as inconvenient. This only compounds a customer's unhappiness. Beyond the harsh criticism, this can also lead to negative word-of-mouth. Avoiding this problem is particularly important now that customers have the capacity to share their service experiences with friends, colleagues, and family members within minutes via social media.
But why do agents break their promise and not call back? There are generally two reasons: employee issues and operational constraints.
Employee issues under the agent's control include:
- Reluctance to deal with an annoyed customer or complicated issue. Customers tend to assume this is the reason for all such cases.
- Forgetting to call back. This has been known to happen even if there is a system that logs issues that warrant follow up.
- Giving up after not reaching the customer on the first attempt
Operational reasons out of the agent's hands include:
- Limited agent availability that results in a surplus of incoming calls to answer, leaving no time to return to earlier issues.
- The escalation process. Agents may not have the authority or expertise to make a decision or take action, but escalating the case to a manager or more experienced colleague carries the risk of the issue slipping through the cracks and being forgotten.
- The call comes in at the end of shift. When an agent cannot call back, there must be a process in place to ensure that someone else will.
Naturally, effective training or coaching should help keep these situations to a minimum. Improved agent knowledge should both speed up the resolution process and reduce the need for escalation, thus avoiding any availability issues. Training and coaching, coupled with clear and streamlined procedures, can help ensure that consistent high-quality service is provided without over-promising solutions to customers in the hope that they will give positive feedback.
It may be the case that call center personnel simply do not realize the importance of diligent follow-up. It is thus essential that follow-up processes be clear, agents well-trained, and their performance monitored to ensure that a company's customer care is seen as an asset rather than a liability by a customer base that is more vocal than ever and has a greater choice of services than any preceding generation.