Convenience, Resolution and Customer Effort

One of the most significant drivers of disloyalty is effort in Customer Service interactions. The key to mitigating that disloyalty is reducing Customer Effort. Most businesses are going at it the wrong way. I will give you an example…

Many businesses started offering multiple channels because they thought it would be convenient for us. And convenience is synonym of things made easier and more suitable. If we wanted to contact, we could do it whenever we wanted, however we wanted.

But the problem is that businesses forgot that, when it comes to Customer Service, we don’t want a lot of choices – having too many choices on how to get help actually creates a high-effort decision for us. Which one is best to resolve our issue?

When it comes to Customer Service, what we want is resolution. We simply want our issue resolved as quickly as possible. And we are happy and willing to use whatever channel or mean to achieve that outcome.

It doesn’t matter if you are a Bommer, a Gen X, a Millenial or a Gen Z. It doesn’t matter how old-fashioned is the way to do things. If you know that a specific problem can be better resolved by post, you would sharpen your pencil and write a letter.

A fast and easy resolution of our problem takes precedence to any channel preference.

On top of this miscalculation, businesses are also not looking in the mirror. They put a lot of effort and money in offering more Customer Service channels, but they keep operating the same exact way – with the same internal silos, policies, sludge.

What good is it for us to have more choice and (what businesses think is) more convenience, if at the end of the day we still cannot have our issues resolved in a quick, easy, seamless and effortless way?

My recent experience with BT – British Telecom shows that clearly…

I have been a broadband customer for almost 10 years. But now I decided to leave. My contract is coming to an end on 8 March 2022, so I called about a week ago to let them know of my intention to cancel the service.

As expected, the typical small print in the terms & conditions immediately kicked-in.

  • 1st unpleasant surprise – I could cancel the broadband, but am going to be charged £50 to cancel the landline ahead of time (when you change address the landline contract renews automatically for another 12 months, and I moved home 6 months ago).
  • 2nd unpleasant surprise – Despite I have been a customer for almost 10 years, I cannot keep the equipment (router, etc.) because it needs to be re-used, and I would be charged £100 if I didn’t return it.

I was told a pre-paid returns envelope, sent by BT to my address, was the only way to return the equipment. But that could take up to 7 working days, and I was only in the country for 6 days.

  • Is there another way to do it? No.
  • Could you give me the address and I will post it myself? No.
  • Could I drop if off in one of your stores? No.

After 4 days, without any sight of the returns envelope I call again, and I’m told that I can actually drop it off at a store. And that is the only other alternative. I travel to the store that same day (2 hour return trip, metro + bus).

  • 3rd unpleasant surprise – Staff says, I cannot drop off the equipment at the store. That it was an “old policy“.

I go back home, and call again. I’m told I can drop it off at the store and they would leave a note in my account so the store staff could see it. I travel to the store the next day (2 hour return trip, metro + bus).

  • 4th unpleasant surprise – Staff says, I cannot drop off the equipment at the store. And that the “Call Centre agents don’t know what they’re doing“.

I go back home, and call again. I’m told that there’s actually another way to return it – they would give me the returns address so I could post it myself. I travel to a nearby post office and pay £10 to mail the equipment.

Two days later I receive a text message from BT: “Hello, BT here. We’ve got your return. We’ll now make sure your kit is disposed in a safe and environmentally friendly way. Thank you for helping us reduce waste and protect the planet“.

Well, if it was to be disposed in a safe and environmentally friendly way, I could have done it myself, disposing it in the nearest recycling centre, and without going through a gigantic hassle and horrendous experience.

And, when it comes to reducing waste and protect the planet, I’m sure that all my trips, as well as the paper and plastic used to post the equipment, didn’t help the planet much.

But…

  • that’s the BT policy – you must send it back to be re-used (unless it’s to be disposed)
  • that’s the BT rule – there’s only one way to return it (unless there’s another way, and another)
  • that’s the BT way – there’s a process to follow (unless there’s another process, or another)

It’s funny… actually no, it’s sad… to think that BT’s brand purpose is ‘We Connect For Good

10 easy things BT could do to improve CX

As many other customers of BT (British Telecom), I subscribed a fibre package that includes voice, broadband, and TV. I also enabled direct debit, and opted out of paper or even email bill. The only thing I get is a monthly notification that my bill is issued and ready to view online. Normally I check the value (if it is what was agreed) and leave it. But in the last couple of months noticed the value increased by £15, so decided to check the bill, which, as you would expect (but not accept these days) was indecipherable. So contacted BT to ask for clarification.

My preferred channel is Live Chat, so I requested a chat session. The chat launch form asked me for Name, Phone Number, Email Address and Topic of Enquiry. Customer Service agent Naveen greeted me, asked me for my account number, and after I asked if he could clarify my bill, dropped me a whole load of pre-formatted messages with generic links to policy and communication documents about fee increases.

1. Why would BT ask customers for Name, Phone Number and Email Address on the chat launch form, if that doesn’t help the agent identify customer accounts, requires agent to ask again, and increases customer effort by forcing customer to repeat information already provided?

2. Why would BT guide its customer service agents to flood customer’s with pre-formatted blurb and generic links to policy documentation, on a Live Chat session, which is supposed to be a 1-to-1 personalised conversation?

I thanked Naveen for the information but said it didn’t help me, nor was it related to my question. I didn’t want a reason for the increase, but rather a clarification on my bill, products and services included, and associated fees. He started by saying that I should not “look at the left side of the bill” as that was only “for BT’s reference“. Then started going in circles. It was clear that not even him could understand or clarify my bill.

3. Why would BT put on a customer bill, information and description which is confusing and not for customer’s reference or understanding?

4. Why would BT make billing processes, and bills themselves, so difficult that not even their trained customer service agents dealing with billing enquiries can understand, or are able to clarify a simple enquiry re. service fees?

Naveen asked if he could call me, saying it would be “easier said than written“. But before he called, asked me if by any chance I had another account, and if I could provide my phone number.

5. Why would BT not give their customer service agents the necessary (crucial!) 360-degree view of the customer, avoiding them having to ask the customer for information that they, themselves, should have in the first place?

6. Why would BT ask for a phone number on the chat launch form, if that information is not even passed to the customer service agent, forcing him to ask the same question again, and the customer to repeat information already provided?

The call only lasted a few seconds. Naveen asked me to close the chat session first, and informed me that he was transferring me to the billing department. I got transferred to a line and… got an automated voice message saying the line was only open on weekdays (it was Sunday!). I wasn’t sure if Naveen was sloppy or trying to be clever.

I requested another chat session. Surprise, surprise!… got routed to Naveen again. Could not help asking him if he knew the line was closed (he must have known!). Initially he denied saying that the called dropped, and after I confronted him, saying that I heard the automated voice message, he accepted it was closed (i.e. he lied at first) and started going around saying he was confused by the change of the hour to summer time!

7. Why would BT not teach its customer service agents to be honest and transparent? To acknowledge an error and apologise? To straight away say sorry and positively offer themselves to resolve the situation?

Naveen asked if he could call again, and on the phone said he was going to talk to the billing department and call me back in 10 mins. I rejected the offer. After all the billing department was closed on Sundays, right?! I sensed he was again trying to get rid of me, again. So I said I would be happy to wait whilst he transferred me.

A few minutes went on with Naveen trying to convince me he would call back “I promise sir, you have my word“. And me saying I would be glad to wait for 10 mins, until he transferred me. Running out of options he said I was not understanding what he was saying, and threw “this is your last chance“. I didn’t understand if it was a threat or something else, but because it seemed to be the end-of-the-line, I asked to speak to his supervisor.

Naveen’s response was as funny as it was stupid “it is useless to talk to my supervisor as he is equally trained“. I said that was irrelevant – even though sad, if true – and demanded to talk to the supervisor. After resisting for a bit, he finally accepted, asked me to hold on the line whilst he transferred me, and… hang up the phone.

8. Why would BT not have pre-defined processes and guides, specifically for these steps in the journey where there might be disruption (e.g. billing department closed on weekends, and front-line agent not able to resolve customer’s enquiry), which would help a customer service agent push back a customer, without hurting the customer experience?

I contacted BT for the third time in 60 minutes, after Naveen got rid of me twice. Got through to Krunal, a customer service agent who wasn’t able to explain my bill, but told me I was up for contract renewal, which would give me a £10 discount on my final bill – but not without, again, asking me for phone and account number, as well as name.

9. Why would BT not pro-actively contact customers who are up for renewal and eligible for offers or promotions, which would make them pay less, be more satisfied, trust BT, and keep being loyal to the company?

I’m happy with the broadband and TV service, so I renewed. But asked Krunal to open a complaint re. Naveen. Told him the whole story and got surprised with his response: “Maybe he is having a bad day today!!“. If it wasn’t for Krunal being helpful and swift re. the contract and offering, I would have been annoyed with the response. But it was enough already, so I left it there and only asked feedback on action taken re. complaint.

10. Why would BT allow their reputation and brand be hurt by a (definitely) young, inexperienced and scared customer service agent, when all he needed was some guidance and training on how to deal with billing queries (which are always complex and sensitive); a system that would give him a full view of the customer, information and knowledge; and a process (and procedures) that would empower him to make decisions, take actions and resolve customer’s queries?

With the setup that BT seems to have, its customer service agents are helpless and get frustrated, by not being able to resolve customers queries, having to jump from silo to departments, and ending up delivering a fragmented, bad and strenuous experience.