Business Development StrategySmall Business AdviceTrust

How Do You Really Train Customer Service Employees?

By October 3, 2011December 18th, 2015No Comments

man wearing headset looking at monitor

There’s a very funny commercial on these days about a woman calling the help line for her bank and reaching an overseas guy who calls himself Peggy.  There are a couple of permutations, but it’s all the same point.  Can you get the service you need?

I’ve had some occasions in the last couple of weeks to deal with the cable company customer service, resulting in new lessons learned.  And this isn’t a rant about Cox Cable; it’s a set of observations about customer service.

The first cable employee came to our house to install the service–cable, cable modem, and phone service.  He spent about 2 hours there and got us set up with both wired and wireless service.  Put the cable modem and router inside the wall panel and replaced the cover.  All looks well.  He leaves us with his cell number and the number of his dispatcher, should we have any trouble.

Well, we had trouble the first night (unfortunately Friday night) when the cable TV went out.  I called out installer guy but he could not come until morning.  So I called customer service, and they tried to get us reset remotely, but could not accomplish it.  However, the next morning the cable was working again, so we assumed it had been fixed and told the installer we did not need him.

Meantime, the cable went out a couple more times over the weekend but still came back on.  So we learned that we need a new box–the one we have is probably not a good one.

On Saturday, husband wanted to watch the Illinois football game, scheduled to be on the Big Ten channel (even in Phoenix).  Could not find that game.  Called cable company, and the service rep said they don’t offer the Big Ten “overflow” channels–have never had them.  Although we had just bought that service and had a channel guide in front of us with those channels listed–they just didn’t show up where they were supposed to.  Eventually, the service rep found the channel and directed us to it.  But he said, I’ve worked here three years and we’ve never had those channels.  And we’d never be showing a midwest game out here!  So much for his subject matter knowledge.  Big gap between sales (who promised those channels) and service (who can’t find them and doesn’t even know they’re there). P.S.  How often have we written about that gap here?

On Sunday, very early in the morning, the internet goes out–cable TV working, Internet not.  Called customer service; this person was not knowledgeable, tried to reset but couldn’t, and told me we’d need to have a technician on Monday.  I called again later, and talked to a much better prepared service rep, who finally diagnosed that the router was bad.  I was able to install a new router, and my Internet connection was restored.  But when I had had to turn the modem on and off, remove the battery etc., I discovered that the installer had not mounted the equipment inside the box but left it hanging by the cables.  The main modem connection was already dangerously loose!  And along the way, none of the wireless worked any more.  After I wasted a ridiculous amount of time trying to reset everything, we called Data Doctors and had a very well-prepared technician come to the house and put everything back together.

My point about all of these experiences is that even with the best of intentions and a few seemingly very capable people, the cable company left us with a combination of hardware and software problems, which cost us a lot of time and eventually some additional money because we went elsewhere for a solution.  And we still need a new cable model and a new Internet modem.

Companies that really provide outstanding service pay much closer attention to training and to processes.  If you’re going to install the modem and the router on a wall, the process rule should be “you have to mount it.”  These companies make sure that every customer service representative knows all of the channels and knows not to argue about what the customer’s brand-new channel guide says!  And they make sure they everyone knows how to make the fix remotely–not just some of them.

I’m quite certain that is expensive training.  It takes a lot of time and a certain amount of experience, which is best acquired with a mentor.  Cable companies are in the top 10 of companies rated for worst customer service.  That’s in part because consumers have so few choices in any market.  But eventually cable companies will go the way of many other services that have been dis-intermediated, and consumers will get what we want.

So don’t be chintzy on your customer service training; it’s really your brand in the eyes of your customers.