Your online customer service sucks!

BUSINESS MATTERS (BEYOND THE BOTTOM LINE) - Francis J. Kong - The Philippine Star

I recently changed my credit cards for security reasons. The cards have served me well. Shopping and paying bills online are a must, especially for senior citizens like me. The “Ilokana” and I stay in the house most of the time because our kids do not allow us to leave home.

Ever since I changed my credit card, the automatic payment to an insurance company for my policy premium has not been restored. The new card is being rejected, so I used two other cards which yielded the same results. Meanwhile, all of my other transactions with merchants still work. Imagine my frustration prompting me to write this column.

Since the pandemic started, bad online customer experience has increased. In fairness, there are companies that feature excellent online facilities. They deliver an excellent customer experience. In fact, they make all transactions and communication easy so that I have been encouraged to spend and buy from them.  I, thus,  need to be extra careful.

Many companies are still lagging behind. Their online advertisements say that they care for their customers, but their online facility says otherwise. Customer loyalty is fickle, which is a challenge.

The leading consultancy companies in the world have continued to present studies after studies that the surge in customer online and e-commerce behavior is one business trend that will not go away even after the pandemic. Surveyed customers also indicate that companies are less likely to provide the customer service they expect. Perhaps, this is why customer loyalty is fickle. It may not be the quality of the product alone that they are after. Customers want quality, of course, but the ease of transaction, usage, prompt response, and delivery are powerful enough to make customers change their brand patronage.

The respected website CX Today says: “Not being able to speak to a real person is the biggest irritation for customers, followed by long wait times. Contact centers  humanize their customer service and equip their  agents with tools to enable them to solve customer queries faster.”

Customer experience today is simply “word-of-mouth-marketing.” A product or a service offering that surprises and delights people will become “remarkable.” Marketing guru Seth Godin says: “Remarkable means something noteworthy that people will talk or give a remark about.” This also covers lousy products and services. The harsh truth is this. When service sucks, they will be talked about more as this leads to brand toxicity. Marketing guru Michael Schaeffer says: “The growing need for an aggressive online customer care strategy cannot be taken lightly. If we don’t react and respond with superior customer care right now, we could be doing permanent damage to our brands.”

Today, the customer is the marketer. Research convincingly shows us that two-thirds of marketing occurs without the company or their marketing department. This is huge! These none-company marketing efforts and energy are occurring through reviews, social media posts, conversations, rants, and other private messages, including Viber and Telegram. Today, customer conversation is considered a strategy. But here is the deal - unless it is supported by actual delivery of positive customer experience. The fortune spent on online ads will also add fuel to the negative rants against the company.

The pandemic has popularized the term “super-spreaders.” Public events people attend make them susceptible to catching the spread of the virus. What is little-known is that about 10 percent of the population across every culture are “super-sharers.” They can’t wait to post, broadcast, announce or rant about some experience they had with a company or brand. Many businesses with some penny-pinching, bean-counting execs are still look at online customer care as a cost to be managed instead of a strategic opportunity -- to the dismay of their sales and marketing people. They fail to understand that customer conversation today is a vital business strategy powerful enough to either grow the business or decimate it. The future is online customer experience, and there is no getting away from it.

Now, back to this insurance company’s policy premiums that I still have not been able to fix because they still reject my automatic credit card payments. You are probably saying that I am ranting and complaining, but that is not the case. First of all, they happen to be my client in terms of speaking engagements, and secondly, my feedback is intended to call their attention to improve their online services. I still want to do business with them. If not, then as an old ad aptly said: “I won’t complain, and I will be quiet. I just won’t come back.”



(Francis Kong’s highly acclaimed Level Up Leadership Master Class Online runs this August 25-27. Develop your leadership skills that translate into personal, career, and business growth. For inquiries and reservations, contact April at +63928-559-1798 or and for more information, visit www.levelupleadership.ph)

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