Like most people, calling customer service is one of my least favorite things since it usually means something is wrong. I don’t like it because the vanilla version of a human being I usually get is more painful at times than getting no help. “I understand your frustration” they drone and I have to tell them to skip the attempt to make me feel good. I actually prefer instant messaging support to any actual human contact and yet find myself on the phone at times.
I called T-Mobile twice and obviously talked to two different people and I had a different experience each time. The first time was a young woman and commented on the text plan that I had implying that is was an awesome plan and then related it to the one she wanted. The next individual I talked to heard my four month old in the background and asked about him. He then shared some of his experiences raising his kids. (He kept calling me “my friend” which is exactly what one of my coworkers in Canada calls me.) We were talking on speaker phone and my wife walked in and looked puzzled, since she knew it was customer service.
I have been talking about companies allowing their employee’s personalities (online/customer service) to show through, enabling people to more easily relate to them. I’ve even discussed the trend towards democracy in business. I was relieved to see T-Mobile empower their employees and have to admit it was a bit awkward. I have been known to play with customer service to get them to relax and want to help me. This was the first time I’ve ever had someone reveal a personality first. All in all it was good.
This interaction is one of the most powerful brand experiences a business can create and I think they have done a good job. The experience can only be as good as the employees are at reading the customer on the phone. That is a hard to find skill and an even harder culture to cultivate in a cube farm. Transparency is a concept that many are growing tired of hearing about and yet I hope it is less of a trend and more of a new understanding of how customers want to be treated; like peers.