Don’t Make Me Repeat My Story!

Shep Hyken
Contributing Writer
Shepard Presentation

I’m always frustrated when I call a customer support number that I’ve called before and have to retell my story. The same goes for when I’m transferred to another person. There is no need for this.

I recently posted that message to social media. My friend and fellow customer service and experience expert Jason Bradshaw responded that the same thing happens with online chat. Specifically, he wrote, “This is also why I have never advocated for online chat – I’ve yet to find a company that uses online chat and doesn’t have the customer repeat their story numerous times. The customer wants success, not pain.”

I agree with most of that. Yes, the customer wants success and not pain. However, the chat solution is a great technology for companies to use to support the basics. And a good system will make it easy for a company employee to see the online conversation and continue it, versus start over. As Jason pointed out, that’s not always the case. But when it is, it’s nice.

In the customer service and support world, there are many ways that companies measure success. There’s average handle time (how long it takes to take care of the customer), average hold time, one-call resolution, and more. I’d like to add one more to the many metrics, which is how many times you make the customer tell the story. The goal is simple. Just one time.

One time doesn’t always mean the customer won’t be transferred to someone else, however, when they are transferred, the next person should know why the customer is calling. It could be because the employee explained the issue to another employee. It could simply be in the record. So much can be accomplished with good notetaking. Then, rather than making the customer repeat the story, the employee can use the notes to ask more questions.

Asking questions is far different than having customers repeat themselves, often more than once. What you don’t want to say to the customer is, “I’m sorry, but you’ll have to start at the beginning.”

You may be sorry, but to the customer, those words don’t resolve the issue. By the way, I’m a big fan of saying, “I’m sorry,” but saying it doesn’t solve the problem. Customers don’t typically notice if they only have to tell their story once. It becomes more obvious when they have to repeat their story, sometimes numerous times, and hear, I’m sorry,” over and over.

So, I’ll close with a metaphor to accentuate the point. In the 1970s classic romantic movie Love Story, starring Ali MacGraw and Ryan O’Neal, the famous line was, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” In the customer service world, “Love means never having to repeat your story!”

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