In this week’s article on big customer service, we take a closer look at support done on a really big scale. We have three companies lined up that definitely fit this bill: Amazon, a one-stop shopping destination for thousands of customers around the globe, along with two huge cable/internet providers: Verizon and Comcast.
We’ll take a closer look at the customer service options available in Amazon, Verizon and Comcast customer service. We’ll also check what kind of results these companies are getting.
If you missed the last article, make sure to check out how Apple, Netflix and Uber are doing their customer service!
Amazon customer service
There’s good customer service, there’s great one too. However, you don’t often see something I’d call fierce customer service. It’s total dedication to the customer. Adjusting every part of the business to maximize the satisfaction customers get, even if it costs more money.
Amazon is one of the few companies that practice this take on customer service. And the company is not afraid to go to extremes to make that happen.
Jeff Bezos, the man behind Amazon’s helm, does not only talk about but also displays this kind of attitude.
The verdict? It seems like an approach like this works really well since Amazon can boast about beingone of the best customer service ratings in the industry.
What’s the trick then? What Amazon does better than everyone else?
When looking at the Amazon customer service page, you can spot a few ways of getting help right off the bat.
First off, you can spot an extensive knowledge base section with the most popular problems and questions. Self-service can be a way to handle a huge amount of requests without tying up agents.
If you can’t find help through the Amazon knowledge base, you can go for more immediate forms of help on the contact us page. Before picking a contact option, you will be asked to narrow down your case a bit. For example, you can choose to ask about an order issue and specify a few issue details.
The customer service survey gives you the option to log in and provide the associated order number to speed up the case a bit. Once you narrow your enquiry a bit, the system will offer several options. An agent would have to ask these questions anyway so it makes sense to ask for them even before the conversation starts.
If you can’t find a particular setting or an order, the system can recommend a place where it can be found. For example, direct you to your order history via a link. You can also get a short support article that tells you how to solve the problem.
There’s a toll-free customer service number (1 (888) 280-4331) for customers preferring real-time, personal customer service. If you don’t have customers scattered all over the world, or if you could simply afford it, providing a toll-free number is a no-brainer since you don’t want to punish customers for calling you with high bills (especially if the case could take a while to get resolved).
Finally, you can also choose to get in touch with Amazon customer service by email.
All this seems fairly standard though. Where’s the magic? Even though these options are not that innovative, the way the customer service is executed is what makes Amazon a leader in customer satisfaction. Amazon customer service agents will go out of their way to offer quick and thorough responses to even the most difficult questions. And even if they don’t, there’s always the Bezos question mark.
What is that? It’s a form of escalation unique to Amazon. Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon, has a public email address (email@example.com) and anyone is free to write to him. You can email Mr. Bezos at any time if you think that Amazon customer service did a poor job when handling your case. When a faulty service is spotted, Jeff Bezos forwards the email to the right team with a single addition: a question mark.
When an Amazon team receives such an email, they will drop everything to explain what happened and to make amends. How many multi-billion company CEOs do you know about that do this?
Apart from the Bezos question mark, Amazon doesn’t rely only on the well-tested and ’safe’ methods. A couple of years ago, they released Mayday, a dedicated customer service option for their Kindle Fire tablets.
Mayday is a form of in-app customer service. Kindle Fire users can tap the Mayday button whenever they are having a problem and they can expect to get help really fast, no matter the time. We’re talking about wait times measured in seconds instead of minutes or hours. The Mayday feature is available 24/7/365, which is really rare for companies of this size.
The combination of the available help options and a real, tangible dedication to customers is what makes Amazon and their support a customer service benchmark and something other companies should try to copy.
Verizon customer service
Cable and internet companies have this weird renown of completely messing up customer service. Again and again we hear crazy customer service stories from angry customers.
We could chalk that up to the huge scale, but just look at how well Amazon is doing in that department.
Let’s take a closer look at Verizon customer service, the support options they have available to their customers and see if we can spot the underlying problem.
When you go to the Verizon customer service website, you can immediately tell that it has been built with scale in mind. You will be offered a couple of options immediately, but they are all very basic. The deeper you go and the more specific your problem is, the more options you will have.
On the first level, you get access to a wonky virtual assistant (with a mandatory 3D rendering) and community forums. A virtual assistant like this one is a real blast from the past. You know how much people talk about using bots and AI in customer service? Well, virtual assistants are a 90s take on bots.
They are basically a glorified search feature posing for a bot. It will respond with pre-made answers to a set of words and phrases but don’t expect anything amazing from them. It will work, from time to time, but you will still have to take care of the problem on your own.
The deeper you go and the more you specify your problem by selecting a topic, the more customer service options you will get. After going 2-3 clicks deep, you will get an option to check out more channels, for example, phone (1 (800) 837-4966). If you go deep/specific enough, there’s also a live chat option.
Partitioning your customer service like this will allow you to achieve two things:
1) Customers will try to use self-service to handle some cases on their own if the direct customer service option is not immediately available,
2) Customers who can’t find a solution will be able to get help from an agent who is not tied up by solving simple problems for which there are self-service materials available.
Good self-service can do wonders for the number of cases your customer service team is able to go through. The key here is to provide a rich knowledge base that covers the most popular topics and provide UX-friendly navigation, which includes a search bar, categories, FAQs, interlinking and related articles.
When you look at Verizon customer service at a glance, it seems like it has most bases covered when it comes to customer service channels. However, when you check how many bad reviews it gets, it seems that the execution on those channels is often poor.
The most common problem customers have to deal with is having to explain the same case over and over after they get transferred to another agent. It often takes a few transfers to finally reach an agent that is able to solve a problem. With each transfer, the customer has to start from scratch. This happens despite the fact that agents have access to a CRM tool they could use to provide additional information to other agents about the customer’s case. It baffles me why they don’t do that. It seems that some agents could use some extra motivation (something along the lines of the Bezos question mark) to deliver higher quality customer service.
Comcast customer service
Comcast, or rather their XFINITY support, is another cable and internet provider with a fairly substantial knowledge base. The collection of articles covers a wide range of topics and sports a search option for easy navigation.
What’s interesting, Comcast doesn’t limit the customer service options you can choose from. You get an immediate access to live chat and a toll-free customer service number (1 (800) 934-6489).
When you access chat, you need to fill out a customer service survey first to narrow down your case a bit. Once again, this a good idea since it gets the most basic questions out of the way.
The one thing that I didn’t like about Comcast customer service live chat was the need to log in if you want to access it. Making it mandatory gives them even more information but it also closes the possibility for sales chats. Only existing customers would be able to use their live chat and if you wanted to ask some questions before signing up with them, you would have to look for information elsewhere.
Live chat has a huge sales potential, both in terms of generating new leads and converting website visitors into customers. If your team can handle the additional traffic, you can’t lose by using live chat for sales.
Apart from the extensive knowledge base and immediately available live chat and phone options, the Comcast customer service website also has a link to customer forums and their social media channels.
The most interesting and unique option is their store finder feature. It allows you to find an XFINITY Store or service center near your location if you want to get some in-person customer service. I think it’s a neat idea, especially for customers who will be visiting the area anyway and get the option to kill two birds with one stone. It reminds me a bit of the Genius bar idea, just as if it was pulled straight from the Apple customer service playbook.
How does this look in terms of customer reviews? Well, it’s a mixed bag. The Comcast/XFINITY customer service seems to suffer from the same problems the Verizon customer service does, just as if this was some kind of telecom company customer service plague. We get the same ‘unable to get help and get transferred’ stories. Once again it seems that the tools are there but the quality of the service is not up to par.
Multiple customer service options vs. customer service quality
Multi-channel customer service is definitely a plus or even a must in a modern business. Customers want to choose how they should receive help and companies should be ready to offer those choices.
However, there’s one thing that’s necessary to provide before jumping into several customer service channels: quality. If your phone or email service falls shorts and the rates are not the best, throwing social media customer service into the mix won’t fix the underlying problems. Companies should first prioritize mastering one channel before hopping on to the next one.
What’s your experience with Amazon, Comcast or Verizon? Do you think they are doing everything they can to provide stellar customer service? Do their agents have amazing customer service skills? Feel free to share in the comments!
In the next article on big customer service implementations, we’ll talk about UPS, Wells Fargo and T-Mobile.