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12/11/2007

Personalized Phone Service Beats Automation

I recently spent some time with Mike Ames, founder of TradeAmericanCard. He has been in barter business for 35 years and is adamant about the need to have the company�s telephone answered by a live person, just as they did when he opened his doors. �Our whole objective is to serve our clients, and the best way to so is by listening and interacting with them,� he affirmed.

So it is not surprising to find, that according to a survey by NC-based Yankelovich, Americans are suffering customer-service meltdown.

What consumers hate most of all is the way most businesses try to help: When using automated phone trees, for instance, 92% say they have tried to circumvent an automated phone tree to find a real person, futilely jabbing at the zero and pound sign. And 58%, when verbally prompted, will say agent or representative.

That means the majority of people don�t like automated phone service. These behaviors are further evidence that consumers feel themselves in an increasingly adversarial role with marketers, and that they need to outwit the company in order to get the information they want.

Overwhelmingly, what they want is a person with an excellent command of English. About eight in 10 consumers feel it is important to have the ability to talk to a live company representative�27% say they would even be willing to pay for the privilege.

�And, quantifying consumer resistance to the trend of off-shoring corporate call centers to India and China, nearly three quarters (71%) say having customer-service representatives based in the U.S. is important, with 25% willing to pay more for this,� Yankelovich says.

Yankelovich suggests that companies customize customer service, since the canned scripts so many companies use also turn consumers off. And what do people do when they perceive an incompetent customer service policy? Most go out and complain, telling friends and relatives what they think about the company.

Editor�s note: TradeAmericanCard has assisted thousands of companies over the three decades in the industry, including Money Mailer in its early days. To read about it click here.


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