A Brief Note on Customer Service
By Paul Smith, CEO
Life often reminds us of things at surprising times. Right now, I’m recovering from major surgery, and let me tell you: I’ve never had such a miserable experience dealing with a hospital. Despite the severity of the surgery, the hospital, in all their benevolence, gave me all of three pain killers when I was discharged. Since I was sent home on a Thursday, it seemed prudent to refill the prescription before the coming weekend, and I called in to do so the next day. What came next was an exhausting, demoralizing back-and-forth with, frankly, callous staff and admins who didn’t seem the least bit interested in helping me. Apparently, my doctor left for vacation the day after I was discharged from the hospital, which is fine. Everybody deserves a respite. However, neither my doctor nor the people who scheduled my surgery weeks prior saw fit to address the fact that I would be unable to refill my pain killer prescription during the vacation. Considering I am in for a weeks-long recovery, this was quite the oversight. Adding insult to injury, the staff and admins I spoke with seemed unconcerned with my situation and did next to nothing to help me. Through some finagling, I was able to send my wife to a medical center nearly an hour away from both the hospital where my surgery took place and my home in Erie to pick up enough pills to get me by.
I was lucky. Not everyone has a spouse with a vehicle and the flexibility in their schedule to drive two hours round-trip on a weekday to pick up medicine. As I recover, I think about those people. What choice do they have but to sit in pain for days at a time?
I also think about the only people in all of this who showed empathy, the only ones who actually seemed to care about helping me: the call center agents I spoke to while trying to get through to the pharmacy. To say the contact center staff went above and beyond is an understatement. In fact, the manager called me back the next day to see how I was doing and make sure I got the medicine I needed. After I thanked her for her sensitivity and care, she told me she was grateful, because the agents only encounter negativity, whether that was from (justifiably) frustrated patients or from perturbed admins who can’t be bothered to find a solution to complicated problems.
Managers of contact centers, consider this agent’s position: caught between two dissatisfied parties, trying to negotiate a complex system she has absolutely no authority over, she nevertheless goes above and beyond to help. This is what contact center agents do every day. They must face the consequences of decisions made from on high, often ones that (like those of the hospital) were not well thought out. It’s imperative that we reassess the structure of contact centers and how this structure can work to the detriment of agents. I believe that my experience was the rule, not the exception—contact center agents are often the only source of empathy for frustrated customers. We must do our utmost to create structures that safeguard and support them, for they are invaluable.
Founder & CEO
Paul has 35+ years in executive leadership, sales management, and business management. He is an entrepreneur with a passion for inclusivity, giving back (InfinitAI gives 1% of profits to charity), and for improving the world with technology. His last 10 years in artificial intelligence and bots has fueled his desire to improve the way bots work with humans for the betterment of business and customer satisfaction.