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Friday, September 6, 2013

Lost in Translation

What did you say??

The world is complicated.  I get that.  There is not much that is black and white any more.  Not that anything ever was black and white.  But in current terms, to find out any kind of answer to a question about an insurance policy, a real estate contract, legal, or something else complicated, seems to be walking into the maze of the Minotaur.   It shouldn’t be this way.

Is it really so complicated?

I have a retirement plan still sitting with my former employer.  Recently, my financial guru advised that I move it, as the management fees were probably larger than if I rolled it over to an independent product.
Yep, that makes sense to my novice understanding of retirement plans.  It especially makes sense when I see commercials from multiple financial institutions that are so happy and anxious to help me retire with all the wealth I need.  (Don’t you love the commercial with the dots that asks how old is the oldest person you know?  There is another one with the green line on the ground.  I simply follow the green line, and voila I am a rich old lady!  Woo hoo!)

So I contact via email my current retirement plan administrator with these two questions.

“Where can I find what the current management fees are for my plan?”

“Where can I find how they are being calculated (are they a Flat fee or percentage)?”

Combined, there are 29 words in these questions.   I received a 318(!) word template reply, in technical financial language.  If I could understand the technical financial language, then I would not need to ask the question in the first place.  The worst is it did not answer my question!

What is the real problem?

Companies tend to forget that their customers are not dumb, but they don’t live in their world.  I am not a retirement plan expert, I am a training expert.  If I could understand the answer as it was presented, then I would not need any of their services in the first place (i.e. give them a fee to invest my money).  Customers need simple understanding and help translating complex concepts, products, and services.
Also, companies and experts need to not be afraid to answer the actual question.  If leadership is not clear on the answer or coaches to give vague answers, then the service team will not give a clear answer to the customer.  That starts creating mistrust between customer and company.  This is the antithesis to creating customer loyalty. 

The Gurus’ Solution

Stop relying on templates and FAQs to answer email inquiries.  If service professionals are forced to customize email replies, I believe there is a higher chance the text will actually answer the question. This saves repeated email correspondence or repeat calls, which of course saves operating costs.  It will also show your confidence in your employees, which creates an empowered culture.

If it can’t be answered clearly in an email, then send an email reply to the customer that states, “In order to best help you, please call us.”   This bugs me too because if a business has such a complicated product that most questions can’t be answered typically in an email, then remove the option to email questions in the “Contact Us” area.   Force all customers to call you so you can service them better.

Companies would also do well to remember that customers do not want to contact you.  I certainly have better things to do with my time than contact my retirement plan administrator.  Your customers do too.

Help Wanted:  A Translator

This happens to me all the time. Another example:  I have a pretty clear question about registering my business with the state of Florida, and I have asked no less than five highly educated experienced experts the same question. I have yet to receive a definitive answer or the same answer twice.  What am I to do as a customer when I truly want to do the right thing?

When planning your service strategy, think about what you assume your customers know and what they don’t know about your world.  Then scrap that, and assume they know nothing. Develop a service strategy to respectfully educate customers and instill trust you employees are the experts.  This stops additional calls, and your customers searching the internet for complaints or solutions. 

It's too bad Google Translator doesn't have an option for "Businesese" into "English."  Until then, if customers can’t trust you to be the expert, then what are you in business for?


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