Counterintuitive Approaches to Customer Service from Top CEOs

Even as people working in the customer contact field, we, too, are consumers. We have all been the person dialing through automated messages or dealing with faulty voice recognition software. We have all been that person wondering, why I can’t just talk to a real person.

We have all been there. Which makes us wonder, if we have all been there, why do companies continue to automate their customer service experience? The answer is simple, and it all comes down to dollars and cents. According to Emily Yellin, author of “Your Call is (Not That) Important to Us,” the cost of a phone representative is about $7.50 a call. The cost of an automated system is only 33 cents a call. The choice is clear for any company looking to cut costs. But as we have seen, cutting corners can lead to dropped customers and lower sales.


Bain & Company conducted research on the satisfaction of 97,000 bank account owners in North America to see why customers tend to wait for a teller instead of using a customer service line. The results came back with a fairly rational response: customers are more comfortable talking to someone in person. Customers crave a personal connection, especially when it concerns their finances. Imagine losing your debit card or finding suspicious activity on your account. Would you rather talk to a robotic voice on the phone or have an empathetic conversation with a real person?

When you are thinking about your company’s customer contact center, there are a few counterintuitive practices that create an overall better customer service experience. We’ve taken a look at what some successful entrepreneurs are doing on the vanguard of customer service.

Ten Hours and 29 Minutes for One Sale

Businesswoman with headset at computer
The online shoe and apparel retail store, Zappos, recently broke the record in the longest customer service phone call. It lasted 10 hours and 29 minutes. The majority of that call was a conversation between the customer and the agent, too. The customer was able to have a long but focused conversation, mostly about where they lived, but also about shoes. The customer did end up buying a pair of shoes, and while the call may be a little excessive, it is going in the right direction when it comes to pleasing customers. Instead of rushing the customer off the phone, the agent was able to give them a service experience that was above and beyond what the customer expected. Fortunately for customer service agents, there aren’t many customers who want service like this, but all customers would prefer not to be rushed off the phone too quickly.

Specialized Agents for Seniors

Special Forces Team
No customer is the same as another. So, why do most companies try to treat customers like they all fit in the same cookie cutter form? Allianz, a retirement planning company, has answered this issue with an unique program in their customer contact centers. They have a specially trained team on their staff that are equipped to deal with senior citizens. Since their services can be fairly complicated, this staff is trained to work with customers 75 years and older to make sure these customers are adequately educated on the product they’re purchasing.

Strategic Outbound Calls

In times of stress, it is crucial that customers have the help they need as fast as possible. Amica, an insurance company, takes this to a whole new level by actually making outbound calls to areas affected by disasters, just to make sure their customers are okay. Rather than attempting to make any sales, this strategic outbound practice makes customers aware of how important they are and that the insurance company actually cares about them.

A Holistic Approach: Having a Quality Conversation from Greeting to Close

Portrait of happy smiling support phone operator in headset at w
With a unique program called The Quality Conversation, Robert C. Davis and Associates trains contact center agents through a complete process from greeting to closing the sale. A byproduct of treating sales conversations holistically with the Quality Conversation is improved closing ratios and retention rates. In one case, after Bob Davis worked with the newspaper Dallas Morning News to deliver improved retention rates, the newspaper’s representatives achieved and continue to make 3.2 saves per representative per hour, earning thousands in revenue nightly. Dramatic improvements in overall sales, retention and saves rates are just a few of the results of The Quality Conversation program.

These practices are definitely refreshing in a world where customer service has been boiled down to punching in codes on a keypad. We believe the best step in customer service is a step towards real, honest conversations. If you’re contact center is suffering from poor closing numbers, set up your free consultation with Bob Davis to learn how The Quality Conversation can help you and your team.