{Guest Post} Customer Service May Be Killing Trust in Your Brand

A guest post by Barbara Brooks Kimmel:

Who hasn’t spent, wasted time on the phone attempting to resolve a problem with a company whose brand is meant to enhance, not detract from your life? My guess is you have. Comcast, Verizon, utility providers and particularly health insurance companies are among the first worst offenders.

The call begins with the recorded statement that “options have recently changed and the command to listen carefully.” Then the customer begins the process of selecting English, pressing various numbers, answering several questions, and then being placed on hold due to “heavy call volume” while simultaneously being told, “the call is important to us.” Often, before the offshore rep picks up that call, the customer is disconnected, and the process must begin again. And it’s not unusual to learn that the first person to receive the customer’s call is not the “right” person or even in the right department to render assistance, and all that information must be repeated with (hopefully) the correct rep. The latest innovation insult is hearing that the call is being recorded for security purposes. How exactly does this benefit the customer? And finally, who hasn’t tried, simply out of sheer desperation, to repeatedly press that “0” button hoping for a miracle in the form of a live voice?

There was a time when the term “customer service” had authentic and valuable meaning. It was a time when companies put customers before profits and calls were answered by a human being who also spoke the same language, and who hadn’t been handed a robotic script to read from and answer questions. In fact, it wasn’t all that long ago.

But at some point companies decided that they could save redirect money up the chain of command by hiring minimum wage, offshore reps and then, in the name of “training” hand them a list of responses that were written by the legal department, and from which the rep cannot deviate. After all, “it’s their policy.” These corporate actions, not only convey the message that employees cannot be trusted to solve problems, but also that the brand has little to no regard for its customers or their lost time. And usually, during these “conversations” the customer hears the term “I apologize” so frequently that these two words have also become no more than meaningless drivel, as they don’t solve the customer’s problem, or lessen their frustration.

Is it any wonder why consumers have so little regard for the companies with whom they do must do business? Does a company have any right to blame customers for speaking poorly of them on social media and online reviews when they have shown deliberate disregard for their most important stakeholder? Is it any wonder why trust in business continues to decline or why more than 70% of employees are disengaged at work? It should come as no surprise that if the company has chosen to treat its customers so poorly, chances are employees aren’t faring any better.

Who decided this was a “better way” to do business? How did this happen and is there a solution? Maybe.

I propose a simple experiment:

  • Place the CEO and every manager on phone duty for one day to answer every call on the second ring.
  • Send the entire legal department on vacation during this same time period.
  • Replace the roboscript with these 7 words: Let me see what I can do.

Elevating organizational trust is not only a tangible business strategy but also a hard measurable asset that increases profitability and long-term survival. But most importantly, and what remains lacking in the majority of companies is that elevating trust requires “buy in” from leadership and a daily commitment to “The Golden Rule.”


Barbara Brooks Kimmel is the CEO and Cofounder of Trust Across America-Trust Around the World whose mission is to help organizations build trust. She also runs the world’s largest global Trust Alliance and is the editor of the award- winning TRUST INC. book series. In 2017 she was named a Fellow of the Governance & Accountability Institute, and in 2012 she was recognized as one of “25 Women who are Changing the World” by Good Business International. She holds a BA in International Affairs from Lafayette College and an MBA from Baruch at the City University of NY.

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Joseph A. Michelli, Ph.D. is a professional speaker and chief experience officer at The Michelli Experience. A New York Times #1 bestselling author, Dr. Michelli and his team consult with some of the world’s best customer experience companies.

Follow on Twitter: @josephmichelli

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