The Real Cost Of Customer Support – to the Customer | Gary Smith's Blog

Programmer & tech geek

The Real Cost Of Customer Support – to the Customer

I often wonder how many work hours are wasted each and every day in customer support and sales telephone queues. Has anyone ever done a study? It seems to me that for all the technology and the whizbangery of modern telephone systems, all we really get is a whole lot more wasted time. I called one of my service providers last week to have a simple problem solved. Their system was showing that I had a ‘pending’ transaction of $20 and a balance of $18. The transaction had been cancelled many months ago, so I should have been showing a balance of $38. I noted the time and the position I was at in their queue.

12th in the queue – this is where I started

6th in the queue – after 22 minutes

4th in the queue – after 24 minutes

3rd in the queue – after 30 minutes

1st in the queue – after 31 minutes, and the call was answered shortly after.

In my programming life I charge between $88/hr and $132/hr so 30 minutes is worth $44 – $66. I can continue working with the speakerphone on, butĀ even then it can be a bit disruptive. That’s not the point though – I’d like to know how many working hours are lost every day to telephone automation and queues.

I think we’ve all had episodes where we’ve had to call more than once because, for example, you’ve hit the wrong option on the keypad and the multi-level ‘menu’ doesn’t provide an option to return to the previous options. And then there’s the latest thing – recorded voices that ask you to say what the problem is.

Before these systems were invented, businesses had a certain number of telephone lines and if they were all busy then you simply got a ‘busy’ signal and would hang up and try later. Some of the (IMO) better systems now offer a ‘callback’ facility so that rather than hanging on for fear of losing your place in the queue you can leave your number and the call centre will give you a call when your call makes it to the top of the pile.

For me personally, it’s difficult to see how technology has done us many favours in the customer support world. There are service providers that we literally dread ringing because we know it will be a very long wait and a whole lot of technology-spawned frustration and rage.


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