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Communications channels need to back up customer service reps

I got a reminder last week about the importance of “training” communications channels right along with reps to accurately inform and educate.

The matter seemed to be simple: I wanted to donate an old flat-screen TV. After a couple hours calling around, based on website-based policies for such items, I learned that many communications either were outdated or inaccurate from the start. Bottom line, I found no place to donate; and the cheapest disposal option I discovered would cost $55.

Content developers for communications channels need to think through how to present information in a way that will align with policies and stay current. In itself, this is a vital form of customer service training. My frustration with not finding a place to donate my TV was exceeded only by the disconnects between what I read and was told when I called to confirm.

This seems to be part of a bigger disconnect. Many companies don’t seem to prioritize keeping their information current, complete, or accurate. Then, when customer service reps provide conflicting information, consumers get understandably frustrated.

As a writer, I work hard to present information that covers all bases accurately. If policies are subject to change based on emergent situations, address that possibility on key communications channels—and let consumers know how to confirm that the information is correct.

This is an important element across all industries. I can’t recall how many times I’ve viewed a menu and pricing on a website, then visited a restaurant that has increased prices without updating their communications platforms. I used to protest vigorously, citing “false advertising” and requesting that the establishment honor the prices on the website. Now, I typically just roll my eyes and lower the customer service grade for that establishment. If it gets bad enough, I will stop frequenting that establishment even if the food and service have been good in the past.

Some will argue that with so many ways to share information—and so much information to share—it’s impossible to keep everything current and in total sync with customer service rep information. While there will be glitches, training writers and platform developers thinking through their communications instead of just slapping words on a page would go a long way to help.

This sloppiness is pervasive. I recently talked with a telecom technology specialist who lamented the sloppiness of many user interfaces. My takeaway is that there often is little thought about how user interfaces communicate. While I’ve long been annoyed by this, evidently it’s a symptom of a larger, more pervasive policy of slapping stuff up on website, apps and other digital platforms without thinking and working through its use.

As customer service becomes ever more important in every aspect of company operations and marketing, the need to train those responsible for communicating vital information will become ever more critical. Companies ignoring this or doing a poor job will find themselves on the short end of the profitability ledger.

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Customer service representations that don’t hold up to actual performance are worse than no customer service at all. My Nextdoor post last week addresses my frustrating “Starry Snafu” experience:  “As a backup to CenturyLink Internet/landline, which I’ve had nearly 5 years, I ordered Starry on a trial basis. When I put in the order, I specifically asked about keeping both services–which was my plan. I was told there could be some interference if both routers were operating at the same time. At 11:30 on the scheduled install day, both my phone and Internet went out. I went to the phone room and found the Starry installer, who informed me that their install was going through the same DSL line as CenturyLink. I would have to choose one or the other. While I was looking forward to checking out Starry, I’m staying with CenturyLink. I wasted my time. The installer wasted his.”

Mark Lusky

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