Is lack of continuity on your phone losing customers?

I just hung up the phone with American Express, and wow, what an experience!
I called to ask for a credit increase on my American Express card. The Interactive Voice Response system easily walked me through the process of entering my account information, entering the amount of credit I was requesting, and entering income details. It then proceeded to ask me to wait, while it transferred me to a representative.

I expected the representative to pick up right where the system left off, complete the application, and provide my results.

Boy was I disappointed in American Express! The phone system didn’t hand off any of my information. The representative answered the call as if I had just called in, and had no idea that that I was in the middle of a request for a credit increase. In fact, as I explained to him the process I had been walked through by the IVR, he sounded slightly amazed, as if he didn’t realize their phone system did that!

As I explained my story, he offered to put me through to the “Credit Increase Department”, which sounded promising to me.

The representative that answered the phone continued my dissapointment with American Express. She did not know my name, (which I had by now given twice), she did not know what I was calling about (which I had now given twice), and she did not have my account information (which I had now given…yep, you guessed it…two times!)

She offered to submit a request for me, and I proceeded to give her all my information (again).

I then asked about their 60 day policy. You see, American Express has a policy that they will not raise a credit limit within 60 days of opening the account.

Now, this wouldn’t normally be a problem. Except we had just moved from a Visa card with Bank of America, to the American Express card. American Express, in their infinite wisdom, decided that our business only needed a credit line that was 15 percent of our old card.

I asked if there was someone I could speak to about authorizing an increase. I was told no there wasn’t, not within 60 days.

I explained how this was making it quite difficult to run a small business. American Express markets themselves as the Small Business Solution…the one thing you need if you’re a small business. Then they’ve made it incredibly difficult to do business with them.

The representative did tell me that the soonest they could offer an increase would be the 15th of December (which, ironically, is LESS than 60 days since we opened the account!), and suggested I call back then.

So how could American Express have handled this better? Let’s count the ways:

  1. The IVR system could include a message about the 60 day policy.
  2. The IVR could complete the process without the hand-off to a representative
  3. The IVR could display my information out to the rep, so he would be instantly up to speed on what my call was all about.
  4. The IVR could have transferred me directly to the Credit Increase Department, since it already knew that’s what I wanted.
  5. The rep that did transfer me to the Credit Increase Department could have made an Assisted Transfer, passing along my story (and my name and account information) to the next representative.
  6. With a company policy in place that shackles her hands, this representative wasn’t going to be able to change a lot for me. However, rather than ask me to call back, she could offer to be proactive, take my information, and submit the request on the 15th, rather then make me start the process over again.
  7. She could offer to contact me with the results or any questions at that time.

Any of these things would be an improvement on how American Express handled my call. This may have cost them us as a client, and I know we’re not the only ones with this experience!

So why should you care about my experience with American Express?

Hundreds or thousands of customers and prospects are calling your business every week. Have you thought about what their caller experience is like and how you can improve it?

Just a few simple changes like these can make a world of difference in how your customers feel about your business. Don’t make it difficult to do business with you!

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