Bad customer service… by design

Most of us do customer service in one way or another. And most of us believe that customer service represents an investment and a commitment. The more you spend, the more you get. Companies that do lousy customer service are short-sighted or just plain cheap. So we say.

I don’t think it’s that simple, though.

Consider this screen shot. Possibly the single worst online customer service I have ever experienced. AT&T has online tech support (yay) in real time (super) that is totally and completely broken. Not because they’re not spending the money, but because the committee that designed it is a few cards short of a full deck.

This is a simultaneous chat room, which means that each person in the room sees everyone else’s questions getting answered (not useful.) Which means that it’s unthreaded, so it’s in no particular order (less useful). Worse, there’s a 10 minute wait time after you type in your question before it gets answered. And the reps spend a lot of time waiting for people to respond, and only answer one question at a time.

The result is a traffic jam that satisfies no one.

For less money, in less time, with less software hassle, they could have used any of a number of free or nearly free systems that would be fast, pleasant and efficient. You and I could fix this system in an afternoon.

Before we jump all over AT&T, here’s the real question: what’s broken about the architecture of your customer service? What could you change that would leverage the effort you’re already putting into it?