When customer service breaks down because of over-communication

Information overload coupled with inattention is creating a variety of customer service challenges. One of them, seemingly ironically, is over-communication that leads to incomplete reading and, in some cases, lack of action altogether. How do you get fully heard, and have all of your concerns addressed?

Conveying too much information in a customer service complaint can thwart it being handled in a timely manner. In some cases, it can contribute to nothing happening at all.

That’s the contention in an article on thepointsguy.com. The article details the woes of a disgruntled customer who “‘reached out to Delta via their online complaint form with a letter highlighting all of the failures (there were many others). I actually received a call from a Delta rep who apologized and assured me it would be “taken up the chain to her superiors.” Wow! I felt confident we would be compensated. After a month of hearing nothing, I contacted Delta again and was told they would take the matter under review. However, nothing materialized from my original complaint; evidently, the call from Delta was just hollow customer service.’”

Article author Peter Rothbart writes: “I empathize with Lana’s impulse to be thorough, but sharing too many details in a customer service complaint can muddle your message and make getting help more difficult. No matter how frustrated or beleaguered you are by travel mishaps, when you contact customer service (whether face to face, by phone or online), keep in mind you’re interacting with real people who have limited time and finite attention spans. Your communications should be clear, concise, specific and (perhaps most importantly) polite — your goal is to voice your concerns so they can be addressed; if you just need to vent, call a friend.”

Here are some ways to address this challenge:

  1. Break out of the pack. Go further up the food chain to someone who will read and respond to all concerns. This is a far from perfect system, but the higher up you get, the more likely someone is to pay attention. After all, your ability to reach them indicates you mean business and they need to respond in kind. One way that works the lion’s share of the time: Find a company PR person via a Google search of “XYZ press releases,” look for a PR rep name and contact info. Explain your dilemma via email, voice or text, depending on the contact info offered. Generally, PR people are very invested in solving problems—and will try to connect you with someone in the executive office. This system has worked extremely well for me over the years with a number of large companies, including Costco, Comcast and Kaiser.
  • Get a resolution time commitment. Couple that with getting as much follow-up contact information as possible (e.g., a specific email address or direct phone number).Given an experience I had with Southwest Airlines, I believe that airline customer service reps are deluged way beyond capacity. I finally got resolution but it took perseverance and patience. I truly believe the rep was doing all she could given what likely amounts to an impossible workload.
  • Craft your complaint in traditional news inverted pyramid style. Develop a short “headline” describing your concern and a one-sentence lead paragraph summarizing it. You can go into more detail later, but keep it short and sweet. Attention spans, for a variety of reasons, are short and not too sweet. I’ve found that when I attempt to address three or four items in one email, I often receive response to just the first one. I find this very frustrating, but it’s a clear and consistent trend.

Do you have customer service snafus or stellar experiences to share? If so, feel free to comment on this post or email your thoughts to mark@marklusky.com.

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Mark Lusky is a veteran writer, storyteller and author, with 40+ years of public relations, advertising, marketing and journalism experience.

Author of A Wandering Wondering Jew… and co-author of Don’t Get Mad, Get Leverage,  Mark (aka The Happy Curmudgeon) is the owner of a Denver-based marketing communications firm.

One thought

  1. Totally agree with this. The acronym TMI is a perfect fit.

    Our society is addicted to speed over accuracy. For example, the “news” policy of “get it out there, even if it’s wrong”.

    Customer Service personnel prefer easy bullet statements rather than narrative.

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