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Mind of Jacka: Your Call Is Important to Us

Blogs Mike Jacka, CIA, CPA, CPCU, CLU Jun 19, 2020

Here's an interesting little story about customer experience which I just…well, experienced.

About a month ago I got a new computer and, while transferring and updating information, I messed up some of my website passwords. No problem; just reset them. However, in two instances my attempt at reset got messed up and I had to call customer service. No problem with my credit union; call, discuss, and access was mine. And no proble….

Uh-oh. With a certain financial institution, problems ensued

I went to the website to get a new password and was informed the reset could not be accomplished online. (I'll take the blame on this one; too many failed attempts and I got blocked out.) I called the customer service number and, after navigating the unending "choose option" menus we have all, unfortunately, grown comfortable with, and after listening to a deluge of information having no bearing on the issue I called about, including the highly unuseful recommendation that most, if not all, of my problems could be solved by visiting the company's website, I was informed that wait times were longer than normal.

And then the music began. Happy, peppy, nonsensical, innocuous music. Music that was neither recognizable nor memorable. Music that celebrated the happy time I got to spend waiting for a conclusion that would no doubt solve my problems with passwords, acid reflux, unsightly dandruff, halitosis, hip dysplasia, and the ills of the world.

Music that, after five minutes, was a jackhammer to the ears, a nail through the skull, a bamboo shoot under each fingernail. Music that was simultaneously mindless, mind-numbing, and mind-shattering. Music that had been dismissed by elevator manufacturers throughout the civilized world for fear the saccharine repetitions would gum up the gears, dissolve the rubber, and inflict diabetes upon any human trapped in a vertical voyage any greater than two floors.

It was music that made you beg for the sound of a dentist's drill, babies screaming, fingernails on blackboards, rap music. It was music that was the soundtrack of horror. It was music that was played on the stygian cruise. It was music that set the mood for hell's waiting room.

It was music that, to tell you the truth, I didn't particularly appreciate.

To the company's credit, never once did they interrupt with that most insulting of messages, "Your call is very important to us", a call so important that the company immediately puts you on hold and then proceeds to reemphasize how important it is by apologizing for the upcoming wait time, followed by endless promos for their services. If anyone in your organization has had a role in including that message on any recording played for a customer, take them out and have them audited.

To show the genius of your narrator, I suffered through this twice. After waiting on hold for over an hour the first time I called, I gave up, vowing to fight another day.

The second time I called, after being on hold for almost an hour and thinking about giving up again, I simultaneously signed on to the website's live chat feature. The subsequent page warned that the chat process could not be used for resetting passwords. But my level of frustration required I use any means available. I completed the form, including yelling, screaming, and imploring them to give me a human to work with; hit enter; and was informed that my request was being processed and I should expect a live person to join within approximately 80 minutes.

(At this point, I want to remind you that I am not making this up.)

I had been planning on giving up again – a second one-hour wait was quite enough. But I conjectured that an 80-minute wait for a live chat might mean that waiting on hold would also take 80 minutes. What was another 20 minutes? Besides, I was starting to hum along with the music. Actually, it was kind of nice. Actually, it was pretty good. Actually, I was beginning to believe its subliminal message of happy conclusions. Actually, if I just had a little Kool-Aid….

At almost exactly 80 minutes, a personable customer service rep answered the phone, solved my problem, and brought the Sisyphean task to a successful end.

Okay, true confession time. The primary reason for writing this post was to just get this all off my chest. (In fact, a significant portion was written while waiting on hold, listening to that music – that music, always that music, always that music that will haunt tonight's dreams.) But within all this – within all the meanderings and superfluity and expository passages and purplest of prose – is a message/reminder/question to internal auditors. Do you have any idea what customers go through to interact with your organization?

The life and death of an organization depends on the way customers are served. And internal audit needs to understand the objective, methods, and processes used in customer service. Further, today's changing environment has impacted the way and places business is now done, meaning customer service must evolve. And internal audit can help the organization see the need for change, understand the impact of change, and help ensure change is appropriately implemented in the organization's customer experience processes.

And, sometimes, it is as easy as a simple phone call. Call the help line. Call customer service. Call any of the numbers provided to customers. Experience what it takes to get through the morass of options, experience what it takes to get your message across, and experience what it takes to get a human on the phone.

Yes, this all came from those hours of my life I will never get back, and it may seem a bit self-serving. But it is a real concern; our new world means customer service faces new problems requiring new solutions. And internal audit can have an important role in ensuring those solutions are identified and implemented. And, if your customers can't get the answers they need without being on hold for 80 minutes, you may have found the main issue with those customer service complaints.

Mike Jacka, CIA, CPA, CPCU, CLU

Mike Jacka is co-founder and chief creative pilot of Flying Pig Audit, Consulting, and Training Services (FPACTS), based in Phoenix.