Are Your Automated Systems Customer Friendly?

John Blodgett

April 28, 2017

In the last couple months between work and personal business, I have needed to contact a number of companies for various things. This has meant interfacing with company voicemails and websites, with good and, unfortunately, far too many not so good experiences.

I am all in favor of automated voice systems/websites where you can access information you need as long as two requirements are met: efficiency (if you need to go through 10 levels of questions, probably not efficient) and effectiveness (if system cuts you off, probably not effective). When working correctly, it helps speed up results, allows you to ac-cess data 24/7 and you don’t have to play phone tag. However, I think you should always have the option of speaking with someone in person.

Most good companies spend lots of time and money to ensure that people who interface with customers in person or over the telephone are trained on proper customer interactions including the most effective way to get the customer the information they need—be it to sell a part, resolve an issue or get them to the correct person to answer a question.

We all rely on some type of automated system to communicate with our customers. But, I am not sure we are spending enough time making sure they are working effectively and more importantly, not making customers upset. In part, I think those who set up these systems are not oriented to thinking about the customer experience.

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I have interfaced with companies’ automated telephone systems that indicate they will take verbal or key punched answers to questions, only to find out that they do not take verbal responses and cut you off as you are key punching your responses. I recently called some-one back who had left me a message. I got their voicemail, left a message and then the system gave me a message that the person to whom I left a message no longer worked there! Really? They just called me 20 minutes ago. Turned out the message was for the previous employee associated with that line.

The other day, I was logging into a website and needed to set up a pass-word. I was prompted to have at least eight characters, a combination of letters, numbers and a symbol in my password. I attempted the password several times and the system repeatedly told me my password did not meet the requirements. I assumed I had misread the instructions or fat fingered my password, but after trying again, it still didn’t work. I called the company (waited 20 minutes), explained the situation, provided my proposed password and was told, “Oh, you can’t have three numbers in a row.” I told him the instructions did not say that — he said, “Yes, we need to change that.” He stayed on the line as I attempted it again; still didn’t work. He then said, “I forgot, you can’t use ‘!’ as a symbol.” I replied, “The instructions did not give me any restrictions.” He said, “Yes we need to change that.”

I wonder if they ever changed it.

Since most of us don’t typically ever use our own customer interface automated systems, they tend not to get the review they probably need. Do they operate the way they should? Are they helping or hurting our image with the customer? So, if you have never or not in a while called your company or attempted to use your company’s online systems, I would suggest you see how they work or don’t. Hopefully, you won’t be surprised.

John Blodgett has worked for MacKay & Company for more than 20 years and is currently vice president of sales and marketing, responsible for client contact for single and multi-client projects. He can be reached at john.blodgett@mackayco.com.

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