Pranking Your Customers: 8 Worst-Practices to Avoid in the Contact Center


Every April Fool’s Day, there are actually scores of grown adults out there acting like children and sneaking sugar into the salt shakers while the rest of us are walking around on edge dodging these yahoos and looking twice at every toilet seat (because you really can’t afford to be fooled again on that one). We’re also trying to figure out whether or not to believe any of those fifteen separate “I’m pregnant!” Facebook announcements or the “news” article about a beagle who rescued three kittens from a burning building. I would really, really like to believe that’s true.

If you’re feeling a little anxious about what to expect from people and businesses today, imagine how some of your customers might feel every other day of the year. Once you’ve had one sub-par customer experience (such as the above salt shaker encounter) you’re likely to be on guard for more of the same. A commonly cited statistic tells us that most consumers (96%) won’t complain outright to the company when they’ve had a bad experience, but 91% will simply leave and never return (Help Scout, 75 Customer Service Facts, Quotes & Statistics).

Here are some of the surest ways to irritate, annoy, and otherwise “prank” your customers into never wanting to do business with you again:

  1. Ask your customers to re-enter or repeat information.

A recent blog by Tobias Goebel highlighted what may soon become every consumer’s mantra: “I shall never have to repeat myself again.” It shouldn’t be necessary in an age of advancing mobile technology that is enabling smooth handovers from self-service applications to live service – and customers know it. Once customers get a taste of what’s possible now in customer care, what was once state-of-the-art doesn’t make them feel very cared-for anymore.

  1. Long hold times

You need to offer callback – that was the conclusion reached by a survey conducted by the CRM digital comparison firm Software Advice when it examined consumers’ levels of satisfaction with hold times. Most (60%) felt that even five minutes of hold time was too much, and that beyond that they would appreciate the option of receiving a callback from an agent.

  1. Don’t provide answers

A recent overview of agent desktop optimization highlighted the fact that agents lose about 14% of their day searching for answers through interfaces that are not intuitive and user-friendly. According to Aberdeen, that translates to about $840,000 in lost revenue per year, not to mention the frustration from the customer waiting for the agent to fumble his or her way through various screens. It’s not an optimal situation for anyone – the very least optimal being a call that simply ends with “I’m sorry I couldn’t be of more help.”

  1. “Please call back during the hours of…”

This may come as a surprise, but Forrester has been spotting trends that consumers are spending less and less time online. That’s because there really is no more “going online.” We wake up connected to smart phones, plug in and out of data networks, text, chat, and connect seamlessly without really thinking about it. It’s becoming just as frustrating to come across a need to contact a company outside of this business-hour window and find that there is no alternative way to reach anyone, whether it’s via social, web-submit form or other self-service channels.

  1. Only offer voice contact to customers who prefer to text or Tweet

64% of consumers surveyed by Harris Group said that they would rather text than use voice to contact customer service. In the same survey, 77% of those with texting capabilities had a more positive impression of companies who provided texting as a customer service channel than companies who didn’t.

  1. Force customers to call when self-service would suffice

According to IBM Retail Research, as Yin Warren pointed out in her post on self-service recently, 72% of consumers surveyed prefer self-service over picking up the phone. As many as 91% would use self-service applications if they were available. This is a win-win for you and your customers, giving them what they want by enabling to help themselves, and cutting costs by reducing the number of calls your agents receive.

  1. Block all contact from other live humans

By this I mean: self-service is amazing until you just want to TALK TO ANOTHER PERSON. And if you’ve reached that point, you’re probably on the verge of entering a shouting match with the unsuspecting agent on the other end of the line, which is no good for anyone. There has to be an “exit strategy” that allows someone to give up and ask for help from an agent at any point in an IVR or self-service app, including mobile apps designed for this purpose.

  1. Be cold and impersonal

So much of the customer experience is about building relationships and long-term loyalty. Thanks to CRM and the data you undoubtedly collect with each transaction, you DO know a great deal about each customer. At the very least, you know her name, which is what you should call her when she calls, and it’s how you should address her when you proactively send texts and emails that she’s opted into receiving. Personalization and proactive customer communication is a way to show you’re connected, you care, and you’re as committed to the relationship as they are.

Good luck, and be nice to each other out there!


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Super Agent Erica

Aspect's brand ambassador, charged with helping companies create remarkable customer experiences, one interaction at a time.
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