Don’t Make Extra Work for Your Agents

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

I enjoy the simplicity of companies that email me my invoices and statements. This saves paper and time. What frustrates me is the companies that merely notify me when an invoice or statement is available. I then need to log into their secure website and download the needed file. I realize this is often because the document contains information that shouldn’t be sent via email, yet this knowledge does little to assuage my frustration. This method, although warranted, is not simple and can be time-consuming.

This week I received one such notice. When I went to retrieve my statement, the document wasn’t available. The past twenty-four statements were, but not the one their email said was awaiting me, not the one I needed. Since I access this information through their software and bypass their website, I wondered if that was the problem. So I found the link in my bookmarks (I don’t generally click on links in emails) and attempted to log in. I was unsuccessful. The password I used last time (which was likely more than a year ago) didn’t work. I needed to go through the “I forgot my password” routine. After waiting several minutes to receive the temporary password via email, I successfully logged in, but to my dismay, the sought-after document wasn’t there, either.

At the bottom of the page was a link to email them with questions. Having invested half an hour at this point and being no closer to viewing my statement, I was frustrated. I concisely shared the situation and clicked “send.”

To my surprise, I received a response; it came within minutes. The agent wrote that someone sent the email notice prematurely, before my statement was posted. “The problem has been corrected and your statement is now available for download.”

Excited by the progress, I returned to my program to access my statement, but the document was still not available. Then I tried their website – again. It wasn’t there, either. This time I spotted a toll-free number for customer support.

I dialed the number. The recording said to expect an eighteen-minute wait. I selected the option to receive a call back when it was my turn. Eleven minutes later, the phone rang. Elated, I expected to talk to a rep, but instead I heard a recording, followed by music on hold. I guess I was going to have to wait the full eighteen minutes after all. When the agent eventually answered, I explained the situation, making little effort to hide my frustration.

After doing some checking and consulting with someone else, the agent confirmed the initial email went out in error, the rep who handled my follow-up email gave me incorrect information, and my statement still wasn’t online.

“When will it be available?”

“I don’t know, but legally we have six more days before it has to be posted. Just keep checking.”

Fuming, I checked periodically, and on the fourth try, my statement was available, having now invested about an hour in total to accomplish the task.

Along the way, they sent me a brief customer service survey. My snarky comment was, “Don’t email me to download my statement before it’s actually available.” I’m still waiting for a response.

So, this company sent an email in error, which resulted in me contacting their customer support center and causing them one needless activity. To compound the situation, the rep who handled my email actually mishandled it by providing me with more wrong information. This caused the company a second needless activity. And assuming someone actually looks at my customer service survey, this will cause a third needless activity.

To make matters worse, I doubt I was the only client to get the errant email message. How many others also received it? Thousands? Tens of thousands? Perhaps more? If only 1 percent complained to the contact center, how many more needless activities took place?

I’m sure the contact center agents had a difficult, stressful day. But it all could have been avoided if their company hadn’t sent a mass email message prematurely. Sometimes we can be our own worst enemies – and the contact center often pays for it.

Peter Lyle DeHaan is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Connections Magazine. He’s a passionate wordsmith whose goal is to change the world one word at a time. Learn about his books and read more of his articles at  Peter Lyle DeHaan.

[From Connection Magazine Mar/Apr 2014]