Rule #2 of serving clients over the phone: time = $

I’m presently reeling in frustration with a call I made to Aeroplan today. (Yes, in good old eaves.ca ca fashion I’m off bashing Air Canada again – there is just so much to hate!)

Yesterday I called Aeroplan’s new number (They change it every year so only current Elite members have the active number). As usual I reached automated telephone service – which I don’t mind.

However, the new service doesn’t let you use the keypad. Everything has to be spoken. So you have to tell it what language you’d like to speak in. Which it repeats back to you and asks you to confirm. Then you tell it your aeroplan number, which it inevitably hears incorrectly, so you say it again. Then it asks to confirm that the number is correct. So you say yes. Then it asks if you are who it thinks you are. Then it asks “are you the member or someone representing the member.” As I type this out I realize it all sounds fairly painless. But because of errors and the fact that you have to say everything relatively slowly, and then confirm everything, it took me 3 minutes just to get to the main menu.

I know 3 minutes doesn’t sound like long – but it feels like an eternity when you are a) talking to a machine and b) not even talking about the reason for your call.  You are just jumping through the hoops to get to the menu where you can try to get the service you are looking for.

Under the old system I hit  “1” for English and then punched in my 9 digit number. Total time to get to the main menu? 15 seconds and zero frustration.

If rule #1 of automated telephone service is “make it easy for customers to find what they are looking for” then rule #2 has to be – make it as painless and as quick as possible.

Aeroplan could at least allow both system (spoken and keypad) to work. But they chose not to. Why? I don’t know. But its given Air Canada’s most frequent flyers yet another reason to get frustrated. Nothing new there.

[Epilogue: Of course, after getting through to the main menu, I was quickly informed I was calling the wrong 1-800 number. I then called Air Canada ticketing and after being allowed to use the key pad to direct me to the right person spoke with a delightful lady who was friendly and cheerful.]

4 thoughts on “Rule #2 of serving clients over the phone: time = $

  1. Jeremy Vernon

    Auto-operator developers should take a good lesson from the web world. Don’t force a customer to give you credentials until you need them.

    Just as a store doesn’t make you pull out a wallet and show them your method of payment, even if the offers some sort of membership so too should Aeroplan (and others) not force you to hand over your credentials until it’s needed to conclude the transaction.

    Also, there shouldn’t be anything on this phone system that cant’ be done over the web via your BlackBerry.

    Just out of curiosity do they offer a mobile-free *NNN number? I’m willing to bet that most people who call in are doing so because they can’t hit the website and are using their mobile phones – paying airtime charges to be frustrated seems like an even stronger kick in the customer’s pants.

    Moreover, forcing customers to hand over credentials to get in the proverbial door defeats the entire purpose of rotating the number, since only valid Aeroplan card no.s will get to the main menu.

    Also, menuing systems that allow you to “speed dial” through the system are awesome – when you’ve memorized the navigation sequence nothing is more irritating than forcing to stop each step until you’re prompted to punch in the number.

    Reply
  2. Jeremy Vernon

    Auto-operator developers should take a good lesson from the web world. Don’t force a customer to give you credentials until you need them.Just as a store doesn’t make you pull out a wallet and show them your method of payment, even if the offers some sort of membership so too should Aeroplan (and others) not force you to hand over your credentials until it’s needed to conclude the transaction.Also, there shouldn’t be anything on this phone system that cant’ be done over the web via your BlackBerry.Just out of curiosity do they offer a mobile-free *NNN number? I’m willing to bet that most people who call in are doing so because they can’t hit the website and are using their mobile phones – paying airtime charges to be frustrated seems like an even stronger kick in the customer’s pants.Moreover, forcing customers to hand over credentials to get in the proverbial door defeats the entire purpose of rotating the number, since only valid Aeroplan card no.s will get to the main menu.Also, menuing systems that allow you to “speed dial” through the system are awesome – when you’ve memorized the navigation sequence nothing is more irritating than forcing to stop each step until you’re prompted to punch in the number.

    Reply
  3. Jay Goldman

    Dave —

    You’ve made one fatal assumption: rule #1 of automated phone systems isn’t to make life easier for the customer, it’s to save money for the company. Rule #2 is to reduce the time on call for service reps, which ties back into rule #1. Somewhere around rule #38 you come into play :)

    Reply
  4. Jay Goldman

    Dave —You’ve made one fatal assumption: rule #1 of automated phone systems isn’t to make life easier for the customer, it’s to save money for the company. Rule #2 is to reduce the time on call for service reps, which ties back into rule #1. Somewhere around rule #38 you come into play :)

    Reply

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