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“There are a lot of callers right now”

– Thank you for your call. Your conversation is important to us. Many people are calling us. You are placed in a queue and the waiting time is estimated at 23 minutes.

– 23 minutes! It’s unbelievable. I was both frustrated and saw my timetable fall apart.

– How is that even possible, I said out loud so my wife could hear me. One of Sweden’s largest banks allowed a queue of 23 minutes.

– Hmmhmm, she replied sympathetically.

How did I end up here? Well, I was sitting with my computer on my lap and wanted to do some banking but ran into problems. Searched the web for a solution but ended up saying that the only thing possible in this case was to contact a bank official in person.

Chat, I thought at first. It’s simple. But no, it was closed. Unclear why.

So it had to be the phone with the result that before I arrived and got help I had been in the queue for more than 30 minutes. Once I arrived, I told the service agent about my frustration.

The person was completely uncomprehending of the whole thing and could show no sympathy for me whatsoever. It was like hearing Bosse Ringholm, if you remember him, and his repetition over and over again at a press conference of the predetermined message.

What can we learn from this then, you might be thinking?

Am I really important?

Well, first of all, the signal value is extremely important and clear in this case. “Your call is important to us” while putting me on hold for more than 30 minutes. What does that tell you as a customer? Not that you’re that important after all. Because if you were, you should have had to wait maybe one or two minutes max for a reply.

That’s lying to the customer’s face and saying you’re so important but then not showing it.

Behaviour never lies. Here, it is clear that I am unimportant as a customer for the bank.

Is there a lack of resources?

Nor can it be said that there are no resources available to solve the problem. I quickly checked it all out while I waited. I was already sitting there with the computer on my lap.

The bank made a quarterly profit for the previous quarter of SEK 6.5 billion. That’s the prize. 6.500.000.000 crowns! I checked it all out at the time of writing and the annual profit for 2021 was around SEK 20 billion.

At a quick count, I think there were 20 people sitting in their service center serving customers. To shorten the queue time considerably, maybe it should have been 80 people instead.

Say the cost price is 500 SEK per hour, that gives each full-time employee a cost of just over one million per year. Multiply this by 60 people, and you get SEK 60 million per year. This means that it is only three per thousand of the annual profit. It’s peanuts in the grand scheme of things.

I don’t feel very important as a customer after this extrapolation. I’m not the important customer here. The money comes from somewhere else and I’m more of a liability. Not so fun to feel as a customer, is it?

Is it my fault?

The second thing we can learn is the bank’s approach. “There are a lot of callers right now…”.

Taste that sentence. Is the load too great or is the capacity too small?

With that message, the blame for the long waiting time is put on all the customers who currently have such a bad reputation that it rings in. So it’s not that customer service is understaffed, is it?

Blaming customers sends the wrong signal too. I find it hard to believe that in this case I should take the blame because I am a customer and now need help.

Here it is obvious that the bank does not think it is worth staffing customer service to serve the customers it has, within a reasonable time. At least not the customers who call in with their needs. They probably don’t realise that they are signalling it clearly to us.

What about empathy for me as a customer?

The third thing we can learn from all this is that empathy for the customer’s situation is more important than blind loyalty to the business you work for.

The service agent’s lack of understanding of my frustration was non-existent and led to it increasing rather than decreasing. In this he could have been understanding and also appropriately self-critical and promised to take up the matter with the management. Then I could put it all aside and focus on the real need I had in the first place to contact them.

To sum up the lessons learned, they are:

  1. Are you saying that the customer is important or the focus. Take it too and show it to the customer.
  2. Don’t be stingy with investing in customer service. This is essential to maintain both customers and confidence in your business.
  3. Ensure that customer service staff show empathy and understanding of customers and their situation. It should be on the customer’s side and support the customer. This in balance with representing the business.

Until next time, I wish you a customer-focused week.