The “I just do what I’m told” experience

Empathy. Accountability. Ownership. Three things that are absolutely crucial for the delivery of great customer experiences. More than that, they should be core to every relationship and everything we do in life. Still, most so-called “Customer Service” people (from senior leadership to front-line agents) gets it wrong.

I bought a flat, in Portugal, and had to contact the utilities company, EDP – Electricity of Portugal, to change the account details (from the previous owner to my name).

The agent I spoke with was really nice and attentive. Told me I had to provide them with document A, and followed up on the call with an email explaining what that document was and where I should send it to.

A few days later I got a call from EDP. An agent told me someone needed to come by to do a (paid) service, due to the lack of documentation. I explained that I had sent it a couple days earlier, via email following instructions provided by her colleague. She wasn’t aware “I’m in a different department and just do what the system tells me to do”.

The day after next, I got another call from EDP. An agent told me someone needed to come by to do a (paid) service, due to the lack of documentation. I explained the same thing. He told me that actually I needed to send document B as well. I wasn’t aware, and asked why wasn’t I informed earlier. “I cannot take responsibility for my colleagues actions. I’m just doing what I have to do”.

The agent also told me that until the process was complete, the system would “flag” every other day and someone would call me, regardless of the case being in progress. “Ok”, I said, “that doesn’t make much sense, but it will only force me to repeat myself to every agent that calls”. I guess that didn’t bother them much.

A couple of days later, after I had sent document B, I got another call from EDP. An agent told me someone needed to come by to do a (paid) service, due to the lack of documentation. I explained the same thing. She told me that actually I needed to send document C as well. I wasn’t aware and said it would be appreciated if they could ask for all documentation at once. “I’m not responsible for what others told you. We are in different teams. I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do”.

I was out, and asked her if she could send me an email explaining in layman’s terms what document C was – as her language was too technical on the phone. The agent replied that she could not send me an email. I asked why. “Not my department”, she said.

I asked her if she could please send an internal note asking for the relevant department to send me an email. “I can give you their phone number, and you can call to ask them to send you an email”. I was flabbergasted. Asked her if she thought that made sense. “It’s not my responsibility, I just do what I’m told”, she said.

At this point I started telling the agent that, from a customer experience point of view, this wasn’t good, and that… she interrupted me “I’m sorry sir, that is not relevant. Consider yourself warned, on this call, that we called you to ask for document C. Is there anything else I can do for you today?”

That’s all”, I said, “I don’t think you can help me with anything else. At least not today. Maybe one day”.

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