Slowing me down will not speed you up

I was on holiday abroad with family. One of my family members had issues with her phone registering on the local mobile network and she gave it to me as the family "geek" to resolve them.

I tried a couple of standard things, enabling and disabling airplane mode, attempting to manually select a carrier, up to finally switching the phone off, reseating the SIM card, and restarting it, all to no avail.

Finally I rang Customer Service from my phone. I told the pleasant girl on the line that we were having issues connecting to her company's network. I explained that I had worked in telecoms as an engineer in a previous role. I walked her through the steps that I had taken, in detail, and how I had concluded that this was an issue requiring intervention by her.

Her response was to ask me to do everything I had already done again.

"Why should I do that?", I asked. "I've already done all that and more!" I explained again, in detail, everything I had done and the results I had seen.

"I understand that, sir, but you need to do it again whilst we are on this call before I can escalate your call to an engineer."

In that moment she passed up on a great chance to add value and effectively made herself a blocker between me and the engineer I needed to sort out my issue. Her sole job was to slow me down so that she could line me up against her next available engineer.

I grudgingly did as asked, and finally got put into a hold queue for the next engineer. After maybe 5 minutes being told how important my call was, I got to talk to the engineer, who fixed my issue in seconds. Total time for me on my phone (paying for the transaction) - 35 minutes. Of which less than 1 was useful.

Thinking back on the interaction I was extremely frustrated that I had been treated like this, and, when my family member received a text asking for feedback I requested the phone from her and rated the "service" we had received at the lowest possible level.

What drove this interaction? The company was clearly placing more value on the length of time in queues than the quality of interaction with their people.

They probably had metrics indicating that a 5 minute wait for an engineer (once called) was a Good Thing. And that the engineer interaction of around 2 minutes was an Even Better Thing.

No matter that the customer had wasted over 25 minutes with the first (presumably cheapest) person, and was totally annoyed.

Which led to what should have been a totally unnecessary conversation with the (presumably highly paid) Customer Satisfaction Manager.

The company was clearly trying to reduce customer time with the solvers - the engineers. However, what if they had done things differently? Instead of making me jump through hoops for the sake of it, what if the original Customer Service agent had said: "It sounds like you know what you're talking about. Thanks for taking the time to do all that before you called. Unfortunately we have a long queue for engineers today as some are absent. Would it be ok with you if we phoned you back in around 20 minutes?"

I would have relaxed for 20 minutes (or longer) and would have had a really brief conversation with an engineer who would have solved my issue without fuss. I would have given a high satisfaction score. There would be no need to have a call with the Customer Satisfaction Manager. The original agent would have been freed up to talk to someone else and fix another problem. And the goodwill would have flowed.

By inventing processes to slow your customers down you are not speeding up. You are merely moving bottlenecks around. And you are wasting your customer's time.

Always, ALWAYS seek to make things easier for the end customer. Use the 5 why's technique to continually evaluate who is served by each step in a process. And if any step is designed to slow people down, change it.