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Customer Loyalty and the Perils of Incorrect Routing

October 22, 2007 - 1 Comment

Post by Ross Daniels, Director of Contact Center Solutions MarketingI care about customer service. Not just as a customer, but because my livelihood is somewhat dependent on it. I market Cisco’s Unified Contact Center solutions. So, I think about customer care. Often. And I’m always on the lookout for examples of good, bad, and indifferent service. With that in mind, I’d like to kick off this blog with a recent travel story which illustrates two core themes in customer service today. On a recent business trip to Toronto, I found myself at the wrong end of an airline’s customer loyalty program. Attempting to fly home to Boston after a successful three-day business trip, I was “bumped” from my oversold flight. You might be reading this and think “Bumped? Who gets bumped from a flight?” Well, as best I can tell, it’s the people that rarely, or never, fly that particular airline. I had arrived at the airport well in advance of the airline’s suggested check-in time (this makes me unlike many frequent fliers). When I was denied a seat assignment at the check-in kiosk, I was mildly surprised. When I asked a check-in agent for a boarding pass and was told,”You’ll have to handle that at the gate,” I was mildly concerned. When I was told by the gate agent,”You’ll have to wait until I board these other passengers first,” I was greatly concerned. I had followed all instructions, yet I (along with two other unfortunate travelers) was the one being bumped. The airline, I’m sure, was following its policy, and that policy must have included a check for a flier’s”status” with the airline. The airline differentiated its service based on customer loyalty. Ironically, that’s exactly the kind of thing a contact center marketer like me would have advised them, and it’s what Frost & Sullivan analyst Ian Jacobs advises in a recent article.Now that I had been prioritized by the airline as a low value customer (oh, the shame), I began a 90-minute ordeal to get myself rebooked, housed for the evening, and compensated. First, a long wait in a line with a dozen travelers stranded from other flights, mostly due to weather problems. Two customer service reps (except for the few minutes when there was only one rep after the second rep cheerfully left the counter for the night with a line full of angry would-be travelers glaring at her), eight people in line ahead of me, and an eight minute transaction time. I don’t know much about Erlang and queuing theory, but I know that I waited in that line for a good long while. Finally reaching the front of the line, the customer service rep was unable to 1) book me on a flight the next day 2) book me into a hotel for the night 3) provide the compensation I was entitled to. “Why did they send you to this line,” she asked. I was a victim of mis-routing, one of the top complaints of callers to a contact center. Having been involved in the contact center industry for the last eight years, I have seen some remarkable transformations in the business. We have seen the wide adoption of multi-channel solutions to enable web-based customer service. Companies have introduced speech recognition to their interactive voice response systems (although this hasn’t necessarily led to better customer service-more on this in another blog). Organizations have made use of IP telephony and unified communications to virtualize their customer care operations. But at the end of the day, most people-myself included-think that customer service experiences have gotten worse. I believe passionately that enterprises can do much to improve their customer service, and I’ll be writing more on this topic over the next several months.In the meantime, I’ll be looking into the frequent flyer program for a certain Canadian airline.

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