In my blog post last week, I described the difficulties I had starting an 8-week trial digital subscription to a newspaper. I explained why I had to call customer support seven times for a total of close to two hours on the phone and write to a VP of Customer Service to correct an erroneous double billing. There are some lessons to be learned so I’ll offer my suggestions as to what would have made this a more positive customer experience.
 
Be clear. When giving customer choices, be very clear about what is included in each option so they can make an informed decision the first time and won’t have to try to change it later. In this case, it was not obvious they offered a free reader that would only work with some levels of access.
 
Speak with one voice. If possible, inform everyone that communicates with customers about all special offers and programs so they can speak knowledgably and confidently. It undermines the credibility of the company when one of its representatives is surprised by an offer they know nothing about. The customer expects the customer service agent to be representing the whole company and to know what offers are available.
 
Offer one-stop shopping. Empower customer service agents to offer all specials, not just some of them. As a potential subscriber, I expect the company to make it easy for me to do business with them. I shouldn’t have to search around the company for the best deal. 
 
Empower your representatives. Customer service agents should be given the authority to correct small and obvious problems on the spot. In my case, I had been double billed for a single subscription. Instead of hiding behind a feeble “it’s not our policy to offer refunds on trial subscriptions”, I would have been favorably impressed with an instant credit and an apology. The few pennies the company saves by maintaining tight control over what their agents are allowed to approve is minor compared to the loss of good from inflexibility.
 
Fix problems the first time. It took me four calls to four different customer service agents to uncover the fact that the shared subscription I tried to set up hadn’t been confirmed by the recipient. First, the computer system should have made this problem obvious and second, it should have been one of the first things the agent checked when troubleshooting a subscription that wasn’t working. On-going training and the sharing of the most common problems should be available to all customer service agents dealing with customers.
 
As a customer evaluating a potential relationship with a company, I expect clear information, well-informed and empowered representatives that can offer me all the options and when there’s a problem, diagnose and resolve the issues quickly. Of course, the quality of the product is a major factor but you can see from this example, the poor treatment overshadowed a good product.
 
Does your company put as much effort into ensuring a positive set of customer experiences as you do in developing a quality
product?
 


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