Yesterday I wrote about how I closed my Washington Mutual account by mail  and the infuriating experience I had with a call center CSR. If you don’t feel like reading the entire saga, here’s the thirty second recap. I wanted to close my WaMu account and was given incorrect information that led to additional headaches and a $4 service fee. I called to try to close the account and discovered I was given incorrect information and charged the fee, so I was struggling with the CSR to get both the fee removed and the account closed. Eventually I learned the correct process and had the fee removed, end of story.
The infuriating part of the entire process was the fact that the first person you talk to isn’t going to help you unless it’s on their script. I understand the need for companies to outsource call centers to areas with a lower cost of living. The bottom line is the bottom line, cutting expenses is has a direct impact on that and outsourcing customer service is something all businesses are looking at. The problem is that you cheapen the user experience in interacting with your company and, if you frustrate them, you could potentially lose a customer because they don’t want to deal with your crap.
Unfortunately, it’s gotten to the point where people have associated accents with outsourcing and outsourcing with garbage customer service. I’ve been primed to believe that if I hear an accent then chances are I’m dealing with an outsourced CSR who is forced to follow a script and probably answers phones for multiple companies. They are effectively living, breathing robots.
Businesses need to think of customer service not as a cost they should be reducing but an opportunity to build a relationship at the first level, not at the escalation level. I was so frustrated at hearing the same canned response from the CSR that by the time I got to the supervisor, who coincidentally had no accent and all the authority (thus reinforcing an entirely unreasonable association), I was already formulating a blog post about how I’m glad WaMu got gobbled up. The supervisor was great though, she immediately removed the charge and told me how to properly get the account closed.
I was leaving and they were making it easy (they could’ve demanded the $4 fee), which made me kind of sad they were being gobbled up… but companies really need to rethink their call center strategy. There’s are quite a few similarities between all the hated banks, hated cable companies, hated internet companies, hated cell phone companies, and other hated companies – infuriating outsourced call centers. (and relentless fees!)