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It is Time to Stop Interrogating Customers

I have used the same phone carrier for 10 years, and they probably have more data about me than they know what to do with. Funny thing is  every time I call in about my account, I am thoroughly interrogated before they would even discuss the reason for my call, it always leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

bad ship

I needed to add a new line to my mobile phone plan, so I started online made my changes, but didn’t get a confirmation so I called customer service. First off, I went through IVR Hell – I’m generally pro self service as I articulated here – but this was a harrowing experience. After surviving that I was then thoroughly interrogated by the phone Rep, with the most vexing question being “may I have your name please”.  Like the TSA, she was not letting me get  to my reason for calling till she was done interrogating me. At the end of the ordeal, she assured me the changes where made and would be effective shortly. She then thanked me for being a “valued customer for over 10 years”. I felt neither valued or like a customer.  The next day I logged on, only to see the changes where not effective so I called back, only to again go through IVR hell, get interrogated by another rep, you get the idea.
Have you wondered why exactly why we have to “verify” information when we call in to make routine interactions. To put differently, my cell phone provider is trying to protect me from someone who stole my phone, called them only to ask if plan changes are effective immediately or by the next billing cycle? I will tackle the fact that verifications by answering questions over the phone are a relic, and are ineffective in protecting anyone on another post. Even if you accept that these hurdles are necessary protections, do we need them on every interaction. Can’t they be positioned at points in the interaction that feel more natural? If all I need is a response that is applicable to all customers, is an interrogation necessary?
Here are a couple of  reasons you should stop interrogating customers?
  1. It will actually shorten talk time and save you money! Yes, you read that correctly, the reality is these barriers and hoops we make customers jump through not only frustrate but actually have a side effect of lengthening talk time. Your customer has a very simple or general question you do not need the name of his pet and their last 4 to provide this response.
  2. It will reduce customer’s real and perceived effort in doing business with you. If you make your company easy to do business with it will reduce disloyalty.Rationale]
Interrogating customers do not foster the relationship, simply allowing customers and your employees to have a natural dialogue is always the way to go.
How do you feel about customer interrogations?