You’ve been serviced, technically

DO those annoying electronic devices such as the queuing systems attached to many companies’ phone systems really work?

Customer service experts believe that they do work but should be limited to very simple tasks. Otherwise, they say, the queuing system can build phone rage.

Curtin Graduate School of Business marketing lecturer Pene Welsh said technology could enhance a customer’s encounter with an organisation.

“It depends on the situation and how involved the customer is with the service. I’m happy to use technology to do my banking. The service I receive from the bank has been enhanced by that,” she said.

“However, businesses such as hairdressers and restaurants need good people services. Where the customer expects arm’s length involvement you can use technology.”

Ms Welsh said the successful use of technology depended on how well the customer learned to use the system.

“Customers need to understand that they need to pay for the level of service that they want,” she said.

Customer service management consultant Jillian Mercer said she believed electronic devices could be used well if they were designed with customer service principles in mind.

“They can work well if they satisfy straight forward needs,” she said.

“The big problem with things such as phone queuing systems is that they are too tightly scripted. They keep customers at arm’s length from the organisation.

“Each customer has slightly different needs. These systems reticulate customers into different streams. If the customer needs to change streams to have their query dealt with, then the system usually can’t cope.

“It’s getting to the stage where a business can’t function if its electronic systems go down.”

BankWest director of retail Geoff Roberts said the key to using technology in customer service came down to managing the processes.

The bank spent more than $2 million last year on call centre technology upgrades.

Its call centres handle about 420,000 calls a month. About 300,000 of those are people opting to use fully automated phone-banking services, with the remainder being customers needing assistance.

Mr Roberts said frustration from phone queuing systems increased with the number of options offered.

“If you restrict to four or five options you can reduce the frustration,” he said.

“It’s about getting customers through to operators who have broader skills and can handle a wider range of queries.

“At the end of the day, technology is about giving customers choice. We have customers who want to use phone banking, some want to use Inter-net banking, some want to deal with an operator and some want to go to a branch. We have to find the best ways to meet all of those needs.

“The new technology also gives us good information on how long people have been waiting in queues.

“With that sort of information you can better manage your customer service.”

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