Off Center
As Lindsay Lohan will attest, sometimes it’s simply more profitable to be bad. Such is the case with customer service – if you know how to be bad correctly.

Many of you have probably heard of a little something called “The Service Recovery Paradox.” (And not just because I’ve alluded to it in previous posts – that would assume you’ve read me before and still returned.) The Service Recovery Paradox basically states that an effective recovery process following a bad customer service experience often results in higher customer satisfaction ratings than if the bad experience had never occurred in the first place.

While many of you are familiar with this paradox, most of you aren’t taking full advantage of it. Your service is simply too solid and consistent to ever shake things up, to ever wake customers out of their comfortable service coma and take notice of your company. Sure, your agents occasionally mess up on a call and give your company the opportunity to put the powerful paradox into action; however, you have too many quality initiatives and incentives in place that keep agents from screwing up big enough to have any real and lasting impact on customer sentiment.

If you truly want to win customers over, you have to dare to almost lose them first. I’m not suggesting that you encourage agents to sabotage every customer call, email and chat they handle
just one out of every five.

Below are some tips on how to help your call center suck just enough to dazzle customers:  

Utilize screen pops featuring impolite phrases and insults. Most of your agents don’t care very much about their job and thus shouldn’t have trouble finding ways to alienate and offend customers on their own. Some of your better agents, however, may struggle with intentionally botching service. A great way to overcome their struggles is to send them screen pops featuring cold, non-empathetic phrases and insults that will help them push customers to the brink of defection.

The key is to use screen pops containing language that is just offensive enough to make the customer emotional but not so over-the-top that the customer orders a hit on your agent or, worse, refuses to ever again do business with your company even after the recovery team swoops in to bring delight.

Fail to keep promises made during calls. Insulting customers isn’t the only way to win their lasting loyalty. It’s important to also make sure that their needs aren’t met 100% of the time.

However, don’t merely have agents tell customers that their issue can’t be resolved during the call, as such a feeble attempt on the part of the agent is likely to result in an angry caller explosion from which your company cannot recover. To best set customers up for the type of powerful service recovery that will ensure lifetime loyalty, you need to make customers think that their issue has been resolved upon ending the call with the agent, and then wait for them to realize that it hasn't been.

For example, agents should promise to process every order and issue all appropriate credits, but then occasionally not follow through on such actions. This will invariably result in angry callbacks from customers that escalate to the Recovery Team, who can then apologize profusely, fix the problem immediately, and tell the customer that the company will love them till the end of time. It’s also a good idea to (falsely) promise the customer that the agent in question will be fired, beaten or, worse, demoted to outbound telemarketing.             

Fire any agent who doesn’t receive at least two or three serious customer complaints each month. Make “Serious Customer Complaints” a formal metric for which all your agents are fully accountable. If it doesn’t fit on your agent performance scorecard, abbreviate it as “SCC” and/or get rid of First-Call Resolution, which is impossible to measure anyway.

Provide rewards and recognition to agents who consistently maintain the center’s desired monthly SCC average. For agents who fall short, provide coaching to help them become a little ruder and more incompetent, or just take away their medication. If you have any agents who far exceed the average SCC rate, move them into the Billing department.

ATTENTION: This is a satire. This is only a satire. Had this been an actual insightful blog post, it would not have been written by Greg. Any positive result that comes from taking Greg’s advice is strictly coincidental.

6/24/2011 05:53:05 am

Love the article! All jokes aside, the customer service recovery is a powerful thing. I may not have people do it intentionally, realistically, it will likely happen "organically" anyway. The important thing is to have that recovery plan in place, because a crappy customer service story will travel like wild fire if the disgruntled customer wants it to.
I'm curious - what would you recommend for a great recovery plan?

6/24/2011 06:06:35 am

great blog! Good to know that so many customer service departments are living up to your advice and do everything in their power to put the paradox to work!

6/24/2011 06:09:46 am

Very pleased you enjoyed the article, and that you "get" the huge impact of effective service recovery, Pamela.

Timeliness is of the essence with regard to post-contact customer service recoveries, which is why the best call centers have set up their customer survey solution/process to provide automatic real-time alerts whenever a customer indicates notable dissatisfaction following an interaction. This way, a recovery specialist (yes, every call center should have them) can follow up immediately and address the issue at hand. Customers LOVE such fast attention and care, and most will not only "come around" but share their positive recovery experience with others. Many customers, following an effective recovery effort by the call center, become life-long brand advocates for the organization.

Of course, not all customers complete post-contact surveys (and not all can afford speech analytic tools to gauge customer sentiment), thus it's important to encourage agents to take note of disgruntled customers and notify their manager and/or recovery team whenever a customer seems ready to blow. We can't rely solely on technology and alerts to save customers!

Thanks for you comments. Good luck messing up -- and recovering!



6/24/2011 06:13:27 am

Thanks, Peter. I agree, many orgs seem to be doing everything in their power to achieve the first part -- that is, providing bad service. I'm just not sure how many are following through on the critical second part -- actually making the effort to save customers on the edge.

Have a great weekend!



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