Friday, 28 March 2014

Talk Talk Care Not Not

Those of us who work in the service management industry are equally cursed and blessed. I get so excited seeing excellent customer service in action, both when it is driven by the passion of individuals and when technology is harnessed to deliver a great customer interaction.

And then there are experiences like today's with TalkTalk.

I have no idea whether the fault we've been suffering for the last few days lies within TalkTalk's control to fix or if it is something to do with our end of the line. What I do know is that the experience of interfacing with them has been difficult, disappointing and  so far a depressing  dead-end.

A couple of days ago our phone line suddenly became very, very noisy. So much so that it wasn't possible to hold a conversation with anyone who rang us. It sounded like someone had rung our number and not hung up, there was electrical interference, or there was an issue with the wireless channels, which in these days of cordless devices can be a problem.

If I'm honest in the past TalkTalk and BT, who provide the service between them, have generally been quite proactive and they also provide simple to use diagnostic tools. So if there is a problem at the local exchange it is normally fairly easy to identify and to know that Talk Talk are aware of it and taking action.

On this occasion though their on line diagnostic tools showed nothing wrong.

That is when the fun started.

Many of you will know and understand that I'm normally a busy man. If I have to take a day off to deal with domestic issues it has a knock on effect.

Foolishly I presumed that starting the diagnostic process at around 8.30am would mean that by around 9.30am we would either have the problem fixed or know what the next steps were.

Silly me.

It turns out that despite having a "Report & Repair" page on their website TalkTalk don't actually provide the facility to do either of those things. The only mechanism open to report something is via an on line chat with an agent.

There are times when I find that sort of option really useful. If I have a simple query for instance.

It isn't useful when:
  • The chat session keeps getting ended 
  • Every time you log back in the agents ask questions with no apparent connection to the previous session
  • The chat session keeps getting ended 
  • Sometimes you get asked security questions, sometimes you don't
  • The chat session keeps getting ended 
  • The agent appears to have no record of your previous call despite having a reference number
  • The chat session keeps getting ended 
  • The agent takes no account of information you've given them
  • The chat session keeps getting ended 
  • The expectation is you will get back to them, rather than them proactively telling you what their tests have/have not found.
Of course like many organisations Talk Talk have a Twitter account, @talktalkcare and to be fair they were quick to pick up that I was unhappy. Less quick to get back to me though despite knowing my contact details and the call reference number. less quick as in "Still haven't done so" OK they have now, but far too late and the damage is done.

I could go on and list other things about the customer experience that have been deeply disappointing,  but what would be the point? I've already wasted a day of precious annual leave trying to sort this out, I still don't have a working phone, and obviously we've already decided to change phone line provider.

But the underlying messages are key:

Customers accept that things break, but they expect the experience of fixing failure to be customer centric. They understand the capability of  CRM tools and they recognise when they are being asked pointless questions or dealing with an agent who is following a poorly written script. They also expect faults to be fixed with minimal friction on their part. We accept that technical diagnostic work has to happen, but where possible we expect that to take place behind the scenes and for the technical teams to understand when and how to interface with the customer.

Above everything else customers want providers to understand the impact the fault is having on their lives.

You know at the end of this saga, which I'm still waiting for , it is quite possible if not even probable,  that the fault itself will turn out to be nothing to do with Talk Talk, but the way they've responded to it is how I will, judge them as a provider.

Unfair? Possibly

Understandable?  Definitely.

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