So, I’m sitting here thinking about my next topic when it literally rings me up. I just received my gazillionth “customer service” call from a vendor reminding me to order/re-order supplies. Fed up, I called back and protested mightily about the over-communication that has amounted to harassment.
The reply tapped right into my previous series on how technology can screw up as well as support customer service. The rep, who handled the situation perfectly, explained that somehow their automated calling protocol had gotten messed up and was bombarding people with phone calls—as happened to me. She elaborated that others had called in to complain, and that IT was “trying” to fix it.
Wow! Over-communication and tech snafus rolled into one. The company, which was in my good graces and is again thanks to the customer service support I got, almost lost my business due to over-communicating—albeit apparently unintentionally.
This stuff will keep happening. What can companies do to hedge their bets about this type of needless alienation?
- Communicate more clearly and completely. At the beginning of the automated call to remind me about ordering, explain that this is a courtesy call to check in about whether or not additional supplies are needed. Then, explain that the purpose of the call is simply to provide a timely reminder—not to try to sell something. With this intro, customers are much more likely to appreciate the outreach versus get upset about yet another robo-call. As part of this communication, there needs to be an option to “opt out,” “remind me in [a specified timeframe],” or to be immediately linked to a customer service rep who can take over. If none is selected, it can be presumed that the call recipient didn’t answer or hung up. At that point, reach out by text and/or email as a follow-up one time only. If there is no response the second time, let it go and figure the customer will check in when they need something. Don’t babysit and don’t “oversell.”
- Gather intel about customer preferences the next time you communicate. Whether it’s a phone call/text/email in response to an outreach or a proactive customer inquiry/order, take a couple minutes to determine customer preferences going forward. What is the best way to contact you and when (phone, text, email, snail mail)? When our records show that an order/re-order is due, do you want a reminder communication or do you prefer to check in when you’re ready? Do you want to be kept apprised of new product/service options that may improve the buying experience?
- Offer a regular email blast that enables customers to opt out/unsubscribe. Without being overly pushy and persistent, this can be a good way to keep your company on customers’ minds. Offer tips for ways to improve the customer service experience and take advantage of product/service options that can save time, money and headaches.
- Send a snail mail once in a while to change up the pace. In addition to other contact protocols, an old-fashioned snail mail reminder a couple times a year isn’t likely to aggravate or anger customers. Just don’t do a monthly mailing unless there’s a specific, legitimate reason that the customer has authorized. This can be a straightforward business mailing, a birthday card, a holiday greeting, et al. It just depends on how formal or friendly you want to be.
- Reach out at least once a year to say “thanks,” period. On occasion, it’s a good idea just to offer some goodwill and appreciation. This should not tie in any way, shape or form to a sales/upselling pitch or offer. It should be short, sincere and heartfelt. While this adds to the annual communication flow, it proves that you don’t always reach out when you want something. That said, doing this 4-6 times a year (as some companies do) can have just the opposite impact. At first, it can be touching. Then, it starts smacking of a sales pitch just because of the frequency.
When it comes to frequency of customer service communication, it really can feel like “Goldilocks and the Three Bears.” The porridge can be too hot or too cold. Find the sweetspot where it’s just right.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mark Lusky is a veteran writer, storyteller and author, with 40+ years of public relations, advertising, marketing and journalism experience.