‘We’re experiencing a particularly high volume of calls today.’

Monday 25th August 2014 at 11:20AM

‘We’re experiencing a particularly high volume of calls today.’

You’ve heard the phrase, even if you don’t telephone service providers very often. Like most people, I avoid calling organisations for two reasons. Firstly, because, being a modern sort of chap, I can hopefully find the answer to my question online. But secondly it’s because their telephone services are, almost without exception, utterly appalling.

In general terms, organisations are trying to migrate their contact service online. Things like ‘live chat’ work well (even when they’re robots, until you ask them an awkward question about the meaning of life, at which point they’ll respond ‘let me look into that for you …’). The technology, that is, works well. I asked a live chat assistant at Sky for help in subscribing to their services from Spain. This, for some unknown reason, sent him into a panic. He didn’t want to help, but had to appear polite while refusing to help. It’s not the technology, I repeat.

By and large, I get through to live chat agents. I try them, when they are available, because my experiences with phone services are so frustrating. Often it’s just as frustrating with a live chat (I’ve written about my adventures with BT over the years elsewhere), but at least you feel you’re speaking to someone. I rarely get that far when I call.

‘We’re experiencing a particularly high volume of calls today.’

Regardless of the time of day I call, any attempt to contact a customer service number, always results in the same dreary announcement. If it happened once every few calls, I’d be tempted to put it down to poor timing on my part and perhaps a peak in calls at their end. But it happens every time I call, which kind of suggests that operationally, they don’t have a clue. It must be organisational incompetence, otherwise the only explanation would be that they don’t give a toss about customers.

Just recently I called a company to renew my domain names. I called because their online renewal service wasn’t working. I didn’t know this, as there was no short term message on their website (which is not user friendly in the first place). I tried calling, but they said:

‘We’re experiencing a particularly high volume of calls today.’

So I tried emailing. Bear in mind that I don’t know if they’ve taken my money and renewed my accounts or not. They promised a response in 24 hours. Had I not had the number of one of their senior managers (which led to a good recovery from the company), I suspect I’d still be waiting now.

The same thing happened today. I wanted to shorten a parking reservation at an airport as I’m coming back a few days earlier than planned. There is not detailed explanation on the website as to what to do in these circumstances, so you don’t feel confident. In fact it looks like they’re going to charge you twice, even if you’re amending the same booking.

Of course, the ‘contact us’ section is hidden on their website as they don’t want you to call. When, after several attempts, I finally got through, they told me to press ahead online. I was going to be paying for it again, but they would make a refund in 5 working days. Not ideal, but at least I have an answer. The website, of course, which is where the company presumably wants us to go, does not hold the information, so we have to call and wait, while our minds process the experience and determine not to use the service again.

‘We’re experiencing a particularly high volume of calls today.’

Naturally, when I have a choice of providers, I do vote with my feet (which was embarrassing at the local council elections recently). But when it comes to the providers I’ve mentioned above, I have little or no choice.

But I continue to hear the same message: ‘We’re experiencing a particularly high volume of calls today.’

To me, this shows me that the companies concerned genuinely don’t care. Whether or not the operations team is trying to win a resource battle with the FD or whether or not the new software upgrade has failed; whether there genuinely is a peak in calls or whether the staff have all called in sick, the result is that I hate the provider.

Any company wishing to grow needs to understand how its customers perceive each and every one of the touch points they encounter when they do business with them. When they do that, they understand which need most focus and which are of less importance. They then start to better understand how to influence perceptions. They deliver well what matters most to customers. They grow advocacy, repeat purchase and feelings of value.

They don’t lie about ‘peaks’ to cover their incompetence when it comes to customer service basics.


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