Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Contact Centres, multi-media and the letter

The other day I received good customer service that helps illustrate an important dimension of contact centres.

I was travelling up to London by train and realised that I'd forgotten to put my parking ticket on my car and had instead put it in my wallet ( was a very early train).When the guard came round I explained what had happened and he could not have been more helpful. He phoned my station to say that he'd seen and verified my parking ticket and that my car didn't need to be clamped. The guard then provided me with his contact details, so if there was a problem on my return, I could point the station staff in his direction. For those who know UK railways, they might be surprised to learn that this was South West Trains who had impressed me (a quick google of "South West Trains complaints" might help explain the context).

I wanted to make sure the guard was recognised for his help but the only contact information the web site provided was a phone number and an address. It was an easy choice - I picked the option of the letter, as I was sure that way my 'thank you' comments would reach senior management. I sent it off and was then very please to receive an acknowledgement letter by return post.

This is something that many organisations need to understand when designing their customer contact strategies. Customers choose the medium based on both the ease of use and the nature of the interaction. If it's urgent or immediate customers will phone, but if it's really important (complaint or praise) then they will write a formal letter. It makes a lot of sense to have the postal response channel integrated with the contact centre as if it's a letter of complaint and the customer doesn't get a swift acknowledgement, they will phone to chase up their letter. Post and telephone are the more traditional ways of interacting, but the implications of e-mail and IM are the logical extensions of this.

There's a longer discussion to be had on the role of multi-media and how contact centres need to handle them but the point is pretty clear. Customers choose their media of communication in relation to the nature of their inquiry and will change medium as the inquiry progresses. Contact Centres need to be able to handle this.


Lance said...

Hi Alex, good to hear you had a good experience with SWT. Sounds like great service, better yet, SWT managed to cope with a compliment.

I must say that in this day and age, too many "traditional" companies fail to respond quickly and across mediums. I am often impressed by web companies and US startups but call a bank or utility company, and I'm yet to have an excellent interaction.

Our dear friends in the BJA are particularly awful. I have sat there and listened to paid employees of the BJA and tell me that they don't answer emails for at least a week.

There is no policy/procedure in place to cope with the interaction with we the customer.

It sounds like as well as giving the guard the authority to provide you good service, they also have processes in place to respond to letters.

One (much needed) thumbs up to SWT.

Alex said...

Thanks Lance, good comment.

I think you're absolutely right that good service is both about providing employees with the capability to respond and then also empowering them to do so. Technology can make the multi-channel integration much easier but in the end it can't solve problems with processes or policies.