Two Tips for Cingular to Improve Customer Service

I caught Matt Ritchel’s Suddenly, an Industry Is All Ears bit in NYT on how Cingular is trying to improve their customer service.

On page two of the article, Ritchel identifies two small, yet high impact changes Cingular could make to dramatically improve their customer service experience:

“There is also a timer that tells the representatives how long the call is taking — the goal is to average less than 500 seconds a call, or about eight minutes.

The databases also instruct representatives how to address hundreds of billing and technical questions for a hundred different phones and multifunction devices.

To gauge the success of its new efforts, Cingular has deployed an automated questionnaire that gives a third of callers a chance to rate their customer service experience.”

First, drop the timer. Or if you must keep it, don’t show it to the representatives. Removing it will keep them focused on solving the customer’s issue rather than racing the clock. The representatives can’t serve both masters equally. Replace it with a metric more reflective of the business; subscriber counts, churn rates, or the stock price.

Second, send the questionnaire to every caller via email immediately after the call ends. A third might return with useful responses. That’s OK. Offering it to everyone means you care about every customer – not just some random third.