42% Would Rather Clean A Toilet Than Call Customer Support

It’s been more than four years since I read a stat put out by Aspect that prompted me to write about this very subject, the choice of cleaning a toilet or contacting customer support. Since that time, we have begun conducting our own annual customer service research, and this year decided to revisit this interesting and comical question. By the way, I say comical, and while the question is funny, the answer is anything but.

So, we surveyed more than 1,000 consumers and asked, “Would you rather clean a toilet than call customer support?” Forty-two percent of them said, “Yes, I’d rather clean a toilet.” This wasn’t as surprising as it was disappointing.

Is calling customer support really that terrible—so much so that the idea of cleaning a toilet is more appealing? It is if you’ve been a victim of long holds that waste your time, talking to people you may not be able to understand, not getting the answer you think is right, dealing with agents who don’t have authority to make decisions, being transferred multiple times, possibly getting disconnected and having to start over, and other inadequate levels of customer service and support.

Here’s the interesting thing. I asked a few people independently if they would rather clean a toilet or call customer support, and the “toilet cleaners” admitted that it’s not that customer service is always bad, it’s just that when it is, it’s really, really bad. So much so that cleaning a toilet is more appealing. (And it probably takes less time, too!)

It’s not that all customer service and support experiences are so bad, but when they are, it can overshadow the positive experiences.

So, what’s a company or brand to do? If you are doing it right, keep doing it. Don’t worry about the laggards who make this stat “interesting.” They just make you look better. That said, here’s a “Top Ten List” on how to avoid being considered worse than cleaning a toilet:

1. Be Friendly and Knowledgeable: When we asked what was most important to customers, the top two answers were dealing with people who were friendly and knowledgeable. How hard is that? Be nice and have the answers—or at least know where to get the answers.

2. Be Consistent: Remind your people that consistency and predictability are the foundation of creating an amazing customer service experience. In other words, always be friendly and knowledgeable. While employees don’t have to have the same personalities, they all have to have the same relentless and reliable dedication to taking care of their customers.

3. Be Better than Average: You don’t have to go “over-the-top” to create an amazing experience. Just be a tiny bit better than average. That can come in the form of a positive attitude, a good sense of humor (when appropriate), using the customer’s name, and other small moments or experiences that have a positive impact. There will be opportunities for “over-the-top” experiences, but they don’t happen every call. It’s emergencies and big problems that set the stage for the “over-the-top” resolutions.

4. Shorten the Hold Time: Customers don’t like waiting on hold, no matter how good the “hold music” is. Putting customers on hold for an unreasonable amount of time sends a negative message that you don’t value their time. Instead, let them know how long the hold time will be and give them the option of a call-back. The price of that technology has dropped and is more affordable than ever.

5. First Call Resolution: The goal is for the customer to call only once. Customers become frustrated when they have to call back for the same problem. It could cause customers to question the capabilities of the people working for the company. That erodes confidence.

6. Transfer Only Once: If you have to transfer, it should only be one time. It’s okay to escalate a customer’s issue to a higher level of support or to a supervisor, just make sure that this is the right person. Multiple transfers are just as bad as a customer having to call back for the same issue again and again.

7. Don’t Make Customers Repeat Their Story: Just as you only want to transfer a customer once, you only want them to tell their story once, and that is to the first agent. That doesn’t mean the customer can’t share more details, but the new agent or supervisor should have some idea of the call so it doesn’t start from the very beginning. At a minimum, there should be appropriate notes in the customer’s record. Informing the next tier of support about the situation also helps to eliminate the need for the customer to start over.

8. Be Proactive: Consider ways to help the customer with something they had not thought of or asked about. Looking at their history and paying attention to their questions could give you clues about what you could suggest making their future experience with your product better. It could also result in them not having to call back for a question you know they might eventually have.

9. Always End Strong: Keep the door open. Even if the call isn’t perfect, do your best to end strong. The customer needs to feel that you put forth your best effort and truly cared about their issue.

10. Show Appreciation: Don’t forget to say thank you and make the customer feel appreciated. Even in a bad service interaction, the customer service agent almost always says, “Thank you,” but the customer sometimes feels this is part of the script rather than a sincere gesture of appreciation.

Some of you will say, “This is just common sense,” and you would be right. But, if you’ve followed my work, you’ll know one of my favorite sayings is, “Common sense is not always so common.” So look at this list, as basic as it is, and remind anyone who talks to the customer to manage the experience so they would rather call you than clean a toilet!

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Shep Hyken is a customer service and customer experience expert, keynote speaker, and New York Times, bestselling business author.

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