Service Short-Circuit: Oprima Ocho to get to an Agent Faster in English

By Chris Bucholtz

It seems like every time I write about customer service, I’m discussing social media and how it impacts support. Far too often, social is applied as a Band-Aid over fatally broken or compromised standard service processes. Social is treated like a brand new shiny thing, is often overseen by marketing, and frequently has more power to solve customer issues thanks to the fears that customers complaining via social will not be placated until they’ve damaged the brand.

When customers realize they can get better results from social, that’s where they go – you’ve now trained them to abandon traditional service for social media. Now all your customer complaints are public. Hooray!

Today, though, I’m motivated to write by another way that customers have figured out how to short-circuit broken service practices to get more satisfaction faster. This one’s pretty ingenious – and it’s another way for customers to get what they want from you at a higher cost to your business.

My friend Greg’s uncle has a strategy when he calls a service line. Although he speaks English just fine (and not a word of Spanish that isn’t present on the Taco Bell menu), he always presses the button when prompted with “para Espanol, oprima el ocho” (or whichever number is the Spanish language option).

In the past, he’s waited for agents to do his business in English – and he’s had to wait for agents. What he’s realized is that call centers don’t hire monolingual Spanish speakers – they hire bi-lingual speakers, for training and overall efficiency reasons. These agents are there waiting for Spanish-language customers, but they can do their jobs in English – and there are usually fewer Spanish speakers calling in, so you can get to these agents faster.

So, a Spanish speaker (who you may be paying a little more) is helping an English-speaking customer.

This is the conundrum of customer service: the more you try to minimize costs and plan things to the last detail, the more customers will outsmart you. Some of them are fighting a guerilla war for satisfaction, frustrating your attempts at cost-cutting simply by pushing what some might consider the “wrong” button.

This is less likely to happen if you recognize customer support not as a cost center but as a customer retention center that can lead directly to return customers. If you staff properly and use customer satisfaction as a metric, perhaps you can establish that even your English-speaking agents are going to be available when they’re needed, thus averting the diversion of bilingual talent by crafty callers.

Heard of any more short-circuits and work-arounds that help customers get what they want at the expense of service organizations? Let me know!