In survey after survey, one of the most common complaints from customers is having to repeat the same customer information every time they change to a new person. I would love to hear from someone telling me why some companies can’t get their systems talking to one another to prevent this widespread complaint.

I called my insurance company with a simple question. You know what’s coming next, right? Their automated system required me to enter my million-digit policy number and date-of-birth. Then, I listened to distorted elevator music while I waited for an agent to come online, who asked for my policy number, date-of-birth, my address, and my shoe size. The first agent couldn’t answer my question, so I was transferred to another agent. I listened to more scratchy elevator music (it was physically painful) and, when the second agent came online, I had to repeat all of the same information again, including the reason for my call! (It’s good they didn’t ask me to check my blood pressure at this point.)

Sharing Customer Information Internally is True Customer Focus

Great customer service means you and your company have a laser-like focus on your customer. You search for ways to simplify your customer’s experience. You look for any way you can to make your customer like you. When your customer service systems require your customer to continuously repeat their information, you’re complicating your customer’s experience and you’re making them dislike you. That can’t be good for business, morale, nor productivity!

Certainly, there may be security or legal reasons that require companies to re-authenticate customers when they change agents, but requiring such extensive repetition of information is overkill and annoying. When re-authentication is required, make it as simple as possible for customers and tell them why you’re doing it. You don’t need to go into a long explanation. You can just say, “To protect your security, I’m required to re-authenticate you for this portion of the call. May I get the last four of your Social Security number and your birth date, please?”

Executives, Be a Secret Shopper

We often hear “Calls are recorded for quality assurance.”. I wonder if managers and executives at some companies have ever actually called their own company’s customer service line and gone through the entire experience of entering and repeating authentication and being transferred from agent to agent.  Just listening to a recorded call doesn’t do the trick. You need to check the quality of your system, not just your people. Try this: Start a recorder, then call your company’s customer service line and record the entire experience, not just the conversations with support reps. See how many times you have to re-enter or repeat the same information. See how many times you are transferred. Listen to how your on-hold music sounds. Time the entire call from dialing to termination.

Requiring Repetition Becomes Disrespectful

Principle #5 of the 5 Principles of IT Customer Service Success is the principle of respect. We must work to treat our customers, whether they’re paying customers or a colleague in the next cubicle, with dignity and respect. When we fail to share customer information (within legal and security constraints, of course) as we transfer a caller, our customers feel frustrated and disrespected. Wouldn’t you?

For More Ideas on How to Improve Communication and Customer Service Skills

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