It is hard to imagine many other situations that trigger more calls to various customer service departments than moving house, and last week I did just that. I have needed to call six insurance companies, five utilities providers, three banks, and the council. A couple of these phone calls were really pleasant experiences, and of course, more than a couple were so frustrating I thought at times my eyeballs would pop.
So, what makes for a positive customer service experience, and what doesn’t?
First impression: the number
I think the very first impression is made before anyone has to so much as pick up the phone. The first impression is the phone number itself. An 0800 freephone number is an immediate winner, but there is of course no such thing as a free lunch. Only my mortgage provider had an 0800 number available, and given the staggering profit they make on my overall transaction, and given that I had to call them to rectify an error of theirs, this seemed more than reasonable.
An 0870 number is a complete turn off. This means the company you’re calling is making a profit from your call – plenty of incentive to leave you on hold there. An 0845 number is the middle ground, where the cost to the caller is reasonable and the callee makes no money from the call. Here at Sign-Up.to we use an 0845 number because we would have to put up our prices to offer an 0800 number, but at no point would we try to turn a profit from our support calls by using an 0870 number. We think this is fair, and we hope you agree.
Second impression: support times
My mortgage provider accepted calls between 8:30 and 17:00, Monday to Friday only. Handy. Given that in order to pay a mortgage one has to work, it would help to be able to manage one’s mortgage outside of normal working hours. Sign-Up.to offer support by telephone between 09:00 and 18:00. We go so late because we appreciate that while many of our customers work from traditional offices, we’ve also got plenty of customers in the evening entertainment sector, so we do our best to stick around to help them out. We are often here before and well after those core hours, and if we are, we’ll take the call.
The real magic though is that our email support can be accessed by our dedicated staff from outside the office, so outside of the phone support hours, and crucially at weekends, a helping hand is always around in case of emergency.
Automated support systems
I haven’t yet decided what I dislike more: having to enter in a plethora of details using my number pad, or trying to get a speech recognition machine to understand me. In either case, having leapt through these hurdles, it is always a relief to get through to a human being. Until they ask me for all those details again, which is rather irritating.
At Sign-Up.to we have no automated nonsense. There’s a phone line for sales and accounts enquiries (0845 644 4184), and a phone line for support assistance (0845 299 0119). Your call will be answered by a human being. You won’t have to press any buttons, or speak to any machines.
No script reading
Having just moved, I have two phone lines at home: one with a major cable company, the other with a major telecomms company. I have one phone, and the cable phone line just stopped working. I tried the phone in the other connection, and it was fine. I called the cable company. “Have you tried another handset?”. I hadn’t, because I could test the handset was fine in the other socket. Yet the drone on the other end of the phone couldn’t understand this. At all.
Eventually the problem was resolved, and of course my handset was not to blame. We don’t have scripts to read to customers at Sign-Up.to. Our staff are intelligent enough to think for themselves, and use their natural abilities to solve customers’ problems. That’s how it should be.
If they get stuck, guess what? Our developers are in the same room. That’s right: the people who designed and built our software are just a short walk away, so our support staff have their own ultimate support. I realise this isn’t practical in a massive company but right now we have this powerful advantage, and we’ll do everything we can to make sure it remains as we grow.
Building a relationship
Our marketing advisers will tell you that the most rewarding marketing technique is to turn strangers into friends, and friends into customers. We practise what we preach, so we’ve got a small, personable team of experts here to help you. If you know the name of the helpful person you got on with so well last time you called, just ask for them again next time. We like our staff to make friends with our customers so we’ll do all we can to match you up again.