Customer Service as an Interface to Be Streamlined

It’s precious when web nerds use computer analogies to describe something that should probably seem obvious to those who have experienced the touch of real, human flesh, but Khoi Vinh has a good point: “Customer service lines are user interfaces, too.” On the whole, he’s pretty much just complaining about his phone company—which hey, we’re into it—but he’s clearly giving some thought to the inherent flaws in the customer service infrastructure, as well.

Vinh makes a special point of contrast between the plausible deniability of the average phone jockey compared to the CSRs at New York’s 311 information hotline. When you call most companies, you have no idea who you are talking to, nor what department they work in, leaving them free to shuffle you off to the next sucker if your problem seems too tangled. 311, on the other hand, drops you to a single representative, who works to solve your problem, even if it takes some research on their part.

We’ve always wondered why the ‘one call solution’ wasn’t more strictly adhered as a customer service operation’s standard operating procedure. Even if it takes two or three times as long to complete the call, if the customer doesn’t have to be bothered again, surely that makes for a happy customer. A customer who will not be calling in again to take up more time, we imagine. And in our experience, the customer service rep will only take two or three times as long the first time they run across your particular variety of problem. Smarter reps work faster and fix more customer problems permanently.

Oy, we could go all day. Someone should start a web site about this!

Plausible Deniability in Customer Service [Subtraction]