What does it mean to take Initiative? - FAQ By Coachees

Often in trainings I am asked, "Americans want me to take initiative. But, what does this exactly mean?"  

Well, here's a good case study from my real life experience interacting with Indian customer support teams. I will share an experience I had with the GE Banana Republic Credit Card online email customer care.  


Customer's (My) Problem 

The issues I wanted to discuss were: 
  • Having problems talking to a representative on the phone 
  • Good feedback about talking with the representative
  • Thoughts about canceling my card
I had to send a message to the Banana Republic credit card online system. Due to a character limit on their site, I had to send the message in three installments. Each message had different topics, as mentioned above.

The Customer Care Online Response

These very different email messages were responded to with the exact same generic, canned message by two different representatives (with Indian names). The response was as follows:
Thank you for your recent inquiry regarding your Banana Republic Visa Card, and the opportunity to be of service to you.
We appreciate the time you took to provide your input. We are so glad to have a customer like you and your feedback is very important to us. Great customer service and satisfaction are an integral part of our business. We are constantly striving to improve our Online Credit Center, and will take your feedback into consideration.
Our goal is to deliver high quality service to all of our cardholders.  Once again, we would like to thank you for your comments and apologize for any inconvenience you may have experienced.
We appreciate you as a valued Banana Republic Visa Card customer. If you have any questions or if we may be of further assistance, please contact us via the Online Message Center. (sic) 
(Note, I have not changed the spelling or formatting of the message.) 

Customer (My) Reaction to the Response 
It is clear to me that the representatives were asked to send this response, and possibly they lack training or knowledge in how to respond to any customer care messages. If most or all of the customers get this message, then it is evident there is no customer care at all. In my opinion, there is no value in this job for either those who are doing it (getting a paycheck is not the only evidence of career development) or for the customers. Customers will tend to leave when service is so bad, so then, those with jobs will lose them. That's economics.  

I responded to these messages with: 
"I am doubtful anyone responded to my emails. I have received the same exact response from two different representatives (Names removed to protect their privacy.). I feel as if my emails were not even read as nothing I mentioned in them was addressed. As a side note, I am an American living in India, training Indians to communicate better with American customers/clients. Please see my website at www.authenticjourneys.info" 
How could these representatives show initiative?
Ideally, the customer service representative needs to show in the response that they have read the actual message through using similar key words or phrases used in the original message. The representative doesn't need to necessarily have the answer, but should actually have a way to follow up with a manager or supervisor as and when required.

For instance, a response to my email could have been:


Jennifer,

Thank you for your recent inquiry regarding your Banana Republic Visa Card, and the opportunity to help you. After reading your feedback, we understand you have mixed reaction to our customer service, and due to this you may consider canceling your card with us. 

I understand you have had problems calling in and talking to our telephone customer care representatives. The teleprompts used are meant to create a more efficient experience. I understand that for you, though, it was not a pleasant experience. I went into our customer call records and noted the time it took you to get in touch with the operator was X:XX. I agree that this is too long, and I can understand how this would be frustrating. Do you have any suggestions on how we can improve the tele-prompts to improve your experience?


I also noticed that you were frustrated with our online communication system. Recently, we have implemented this online e-mail messaging system. There are still some bugs that need to be addressed and resolved. Your message noted that due to the character restriction, you have had to send three different messages to us. This could have been written in one message. Thank you for your patience and determination to communicate with us, when most customers would have probably given up. Please bear with us while we improve this system. Again, your input as an actual customer and user of this system will help us to improve it. Feel free to share your feedback with us.


We value your business, and notice that you have been a customer with us for XX years. After seeing this, we think there are good reasons you have stayed with us for so long. What has compelled you to stay with us for so long? Maybe some of those reasons will compel you to stay longer.  


Having conversations with our customers helps us to understand and serve you better.  Once again, we would like to thank you for your comments and apologize for any inconvenience you may have experienced.  


We appreciate you as a valued Banana Republic Visa Card customer. If you have any questions or if we may be of further assistance, please contact us via the Online Message Center.   


Have a wonderful day.
Regards, 
NAME OF REPRESENTATIVE 

Questions to Ponder
What differences do you see between the original message and the enhanced message?
What parts of the enhanced message show "initiative"?
What were good aspects of the original canned message?

How I Would Help You To Respond to American Customers/Colleagues Better
The above e-mail is an example. I would not give this an answer to any coachee or trainee, but rather coach them through the experience in how to better respond to customers (always keeping in mind the corporate culture of the company in question). Real life customer case studies can be used in the sessions to make the training the most relevant to the day to day customer communications.

Creating better customer relationship engagement AND giving the employees confidence and purpose are two of many outcomes of this kind of coaching. To learn more or arrange this kind of training/coaching for your employees in a face-to-face or virtual delivery model, contact Jennifer Kumar today.


Outcomes From Previous Sessions with Jennifer:

Related Posts:
Why is it important to ask questions to Americans?  

Networked blogs link: http://nblo.gs/Sv3cM

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